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Fans hope for fun games and growth in 2015-16 season

by Gordy Stillman / New Jersey Devils
Contributing to the offense with 3 assists in the preseason, Damon Severson is a player to watch as the Devils enter the 2015-16 regular season. Fans pointed to Severson's contributions on both sides of the puck when saying they had high hopes for him. Photo by Melanie Rieder

The New Jersey Devils concluded their 2015 preseason schedule Friday night with a 3-2 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center. As the team began to turn the page toward the regular season, fans shared their hopes and expectations for the 2015-16 season and their thoughts and reactions to the exhibition schedule.

Overwhelmingly, fans expressed hope and faith that the team is building for long term success. Adam Polyak, a 22-year-old Rutgers student and lifelong fan, said, “I want [the Devils] to be competitive in every game, and I want to have fun watching the team.” Wearing a Patrik Elias jersey adorned with nine player signatures, Polyak added that while his expectations for the team don’t include a playoff appearance, which he did expect last year, he feels better about the team’s future. “The changes they’ve made, what they’re doing is definitely going to improve the team in the long run…it’s good to see.”

“I want to see the young players develop,” said Jim Keller, an FDIC employee from East Windsor. “I’m just looking for them to be competitive, work hard and play well.” Keller said he liked how new Devils right wing Kyle Palmieri has played and that he and his family, who were in attendance with him, have paid particularly close attention to Adam Henrique’s preseason. Keller said that Henrique has been his family’s favorite player ever since the forward scored an OT goal against the Winnipeg Jets in one of their first trips to Prudential Center.

Second-year season ticketholder John O’Hara, a professor from Bayonne, hopes to see more shots on goal and shots off the rebound. “I think there was a little too much passing last year.” O’Hara said that while he was sad to see former captain Bryce Salvador retire, he feels good about the team and its future. “I’m curious to see who’s going to step up…and lead by example.” O’Hara said he found the new 3-on-3 OT format—in which the Devils won all three preseason contests— to be an interesting change.

Expecting growth and competitive games, fans identified defenseman Adam Larsson as a standout player in the 2015 preseason thanks to his role on blue line. Photo by Courtney Gfroerer

There’s also the hope of seeing some of the team’s younger talent on the ice. Max Van Ness, a 26-year-old fan and season ticket holder, said that in addition to seeing the “new generation” of players on the team, he expects the team to carry momentum and energy into the regular season. A year ago, Van Ness felt there was a lack of energy among the players, but now, with the changes, it’s back. “The team just seems like it’s got more life, a lot more energy…it seems like it’s a new team.”

Fans also noticed players standing out on the team. “Blandisi…was just like a rocket when he was here…giving everything every shift,” said Polyak, referring to Devils prospect Joseph Blandisi, who was assigned to the Devils’ AHL affiliate in Albany last week. Polyak also noted Damon Severson and Adam Larsson on the defense, recognizing their defensive talent and Severson’s offensive contributions.

Opening Night is less than a week away and fans are excited to see the next generation of the New Jersey Devils grow and pursue the ultimate prize of lifting the Stanley Cup. While fans hope for exciting and fun games, the team’s drive to compete every night should deliver as the Devils relentlessly pursue success on the ice.

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