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Hall brings speed, skill to Devils

by Mike Morreale / NHL.com

Devils gear up for season opener

Devils gear up for season opener

A long training camp has the Devils ready to drop the puck in the 2016-17 season opener in Florida

  • 02:47 •

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils are optimistic that the addition of left wing Taylor Hall and rookie center Pavel Zacha, along with a return to health by left wing Michael Cammalleri, will help generate a lot more offense this season.

The Devils haven't had as many as three players score 20 goals in a season since 2011-12, the last time they qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That season, Ilya Kovalchuk (37 goals), Zach Parise (31), David Clarkson (30), Patrik Elias (26) and Petr Sykora (21) led the offense. Kovalchuk averaged more than a point per game (1.08), the last Devils player to do so.

New Jersey was on track last season, when right wing Kyle Palmieri and center Adam Henrique each scored 30 goals. Cammalleri was well on his way before an inflamed tendon in his right hand limited him to 42 games and 14 goals.

"The first step to [more offense] is having more weapons in your lineup," Devils coach John Hynes said. "Four lines that will give you an opportunity to score, four lines that threaten the opposition. We feel like we're building toward that, but it's really going to come down to how we play. We have to have good habits, generate a high volume of shots and be strong on the puck in the offensive zone to play in areas where you can score goals.

"It's not going to just change because we think we have more offensive players, because those players have to play a certain way for us to generate more chances."

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 The Devils open the season at the Florida Panthers on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-F). Hall, 24, who scored a career-high 26 goals with the Edmonton Oilers last season, likely will begin the game on a line with Henrique and right wing Devante Smith-Pelly.

"It's going to be a fun game and fun first night," said Hall, who was acquired on June 29 in a trade that sent defenseman Adam Larsson to the Oilers. "I'm not putting the weight of the world on me for one game; I'm just one of 20 guys who will be playing, but I'm certainly looking forward to playing the first real game in that [Devils] jersey and making the contributions that I can right off the bat."

New Jersey's offense can only improve after finishing 30th in the League in goals per game (2.22) and shots per game (24.4) last season.

"There are some concepts we switched around in trying to get a little more offensive," Palmieri said, "but with our personnel and the speed we play with, I hope we can get some chances, and hopefully we can finish them."

Hall feels speed is one of New Jersey's best assets.

"We have speed at forward and on defense but there's skating fast, and there's moving the puck fast, so we have to get to that point really quickly here," Hall said.

Zacha, 19, will open the season as the third-line center.

"We have good forwards and with [Hall] coming in, it'll be exciting to watch him because he'll help us score more and I'm here for that reason too," said Zacha, New Jersey's first-round pick (No. 6) in the 2015 NHL Draft. "I'm here to help the team win games, and without scoring you can't do it, so I will do my best."

Hall felt training camp provided a good glimpse into what the Devils could ultimately be as a five-man unit this season.

"It's pretty evident that the structure in detail that we play with will be the key to our team, and we need to grow our game from there," Hall said. "It's been a learning process just knowing how demanding [the coaching staff] is about little areas and details. That's impressed me a lot, and once you get that system down and know where to be, it's going to be pretty fun."

In order for the Devils to display more offensive consistency, they will need more from their defensemen; Marek Zidlicky (42 points) and Andy Greene (32), each in 2013-14, are the only New Jersey defensemen to score 30 or more points in the past five full NHL seasons.

"You say the word 'expectations' and you can expect all you want, but it comes down to action," defenseman John Moore said. "Offense is something that comes and goes. We don't need to be reminded about last year; it was tough scoring goals 5-on-5, so definitely that's an area of focus for us. But it comes down to structure, playing sound defensively and everything else comes from that."

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