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Rookies getting a look

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Patrice Cormier with assistant coach Mario Tremblay at Tuesday's morning session.
Jacques Lemaire didn't hand over his lineup sheet for Wednesday's pre-season opener against the Rangers, but he did give some indications of which way he was leaning.

The Devils host New York at 7 p.m. (TV: MSG Plus) to conclude a pre-season doubleheader. First, Lowell (AHL) will take on Hartford in a 1 p.m. matinee that will be open to the public, free of charge.

Defensemen Alexander Urbom and Mark Fraser are expected to play against the Rangers after making good impressions through the first three days of training camp. They skated with the veterans in Tuesday's morning session.

"I asked the assistants and (Devils Pres./CEO/GM) Lou (Lamoriello) who we should try in the exhibition games so we can see them," Lemaire said." If they can play, they can make the team."

Fraser, who turns 23 on Sept. 29, has spent the last three seasons in Lowell, compiling five goals and 39 assists for 44 points in 224 games. The Devils' third choice, 84th overall, in 2005, he played seven games with New Jersey in 2006-07.

Urbom, 18, was New Jersey's third choice, 73rd overall, at this year's draft. He was a Djurgardens (Swe.) teammate of Devils' 2009 first-rounder Jacob Josefson.

"He's a big kid and does a lot of good things," Lemaire said of the Swedish blueliner. "He's got good skills, so we'll see what he does in games."

Another hopeful is Patrice Cormier, who centered Vladimir Zharkov and David Clarkson on Tuesday morning. The 19-year-old has been slotted on veteran lines throughout camp, including a trio with Zach Parise and Brendan Shanahan, and another with Jay Pandolfo and Clarkson.

But with the first cuts yet to come, Lemaire hasn't ruled out giving other prospects a closer look as camp continues.

"The ones that will do more, the ones that will play the closest to the NHL, they're the ones that are going to stay," he said. "That's what we'll be looking for."

So what does the head coach want to see in the first pre-season contest?

"What we've been practicing," he said. "We want to be fast, we want to be excellent on (creating) turnovers, we want to have puck control, and we want to play in the other team's end – it's easier."

Lemaire observed that grouping his regulars together into one session can give him better perspective on where the team stands.

"They worked well today," he said. "When you have all the kids you don't really see your team. The second day, at least we got the NHL players together so you could see it a little more, and now we have all of them today. Now you start to have a little idea how it's going to turn out."

The line of Parise-Travis Zajac-Shanahan remained intact for a second straight day. Lemaire said Jamie Langenbrunner, Pandolfo and Andrew Peters are among those that will not play Wednesday.

"The lines that worked really good last year – you know what? – they'll be the same line this year," Lemaire said. "And if they're not good, it won't be the same line."

Parise (r.) and Zajac on Tuesday.
The ZZ Pops line of Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner has yet to skate together at camp. Instead, Shanahan has filled the captain's spot on right wing.

"It's been good," Zajac said. "We've been moving the puck well, and there've been a lot of chances. These two guys, they're easy to play with. They know where everyone's going to be on the ice. Shanny's always finding those spots to score goals, so it's easy as a forward to know where he's going to be. Zach works hard, he's been the same guy since he's been here. He works hard and gets to the net and makes plays and scores goals. It's easy playing with those two guys."

Zajac joked about challenging Langenbrunner in practice.
"Just trying to help him on his defensive game, a little," he said. "Trying to make him a better a defensive player."

Lemaire was asked to compare his new team to the one he coached in Minnesota last season. He gave the Devils a clear edge, especially up front.

"Puck control is better," he said. "I haven't looked at the defensemen differences, but I know the forwards here, I think they're better with the puck. They use each other better. We had one line that was good at it in Minny, but here, what I see, we have two lines here and a kid line that is doing well."

The "kid line" is Zharkov-P. Cormier-Clarkson.

"The line's going well, it's a good line," Lemaire said. "But again, everything could be down the drain tomorrow night. We'll have new thoughts, for now, they're positive."

• Lemaire wouldn't offer much insight into goaltender(s) for Wednesday.

"We'll see. It's always 'STC – Subject to change,'" he said.

• On Tuesday, Paul Martin and Mike Mottau shared the blueline perspective on Lemaire's system.

"We just try to get (the puck) as far as we can up the ice so that the wingers can jump in, and have the center and the other wing support him," Martin said. "Then it's up to us to get up the ice as fast as we can to help out. In the past, breaking out of defensive zone or neutral zone, we've been in tighter, but now we're spreading out a little bit."

Mottau's enjoying the new strategy.

"It's just a little different, but it's pretty easy once you kind of step back and look at it," he said. "Within the framework of what we want to do, you have a few options, so it's not all one-track mind, bang it up the boards or whatever. You have options to make plays, and guys are moving."

The system will need team speed in order to thrive, which is why Mottau believes the Devils will be a tough team to defend in the season ahead.

"It's going to keep teams on their heels," he said. "They won't be able to check us as tightly because the puck moves faster than everyone else and the puck's always moving in this system. I think that's a key component to our team because we have a lot of speed, and if the puck moves fast, then we can move fast."

• Shanahan went up against Peters in one-on-one drills for the second straight day.

"I didn't want to appear scared of him," Shanahan said when asked why he worked with the 6-4, 225-pounder again.

Morning recap
11:08 a.m. – This afternoon's rookie session will take place on Prudential Center's main rink. To this point, the camp has only been held at AmeriHealth Pavilion.

11:06 a.m. – Peters switches to go vs. White. Shanahan with Cory Murphy, one-on-one.

10:58 a.m. – One-on-one puck possession drills. Notable matchups: Shanahan going against Peters again, Parise vs. Mottau, Zajac vs. Fraser, Langenbrunner vs. Pandolfo, Pelley vs. Rolston, Salvador vs. Greene, Martin vs. Bergfors, Leblond vs. P. Cormier.

10:25 a.m. – Danis off for Frazee.

10:24 a.m. – Working on special teams; PP breakout.

10:08 a.m. – Snapshot of this morning's lines: Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Brendan Shanahan in red; Brian Rolston-Dainius Zubrus-Niclas Bergfors in green; Vladimir Zharkov-Patrice Cormier-David Clarkson in gray; Andrew Peters-Jay Pandolfo-Jamie Langenbrunner in light blue; Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond-Rod Pelley-Ilkka Pikkarainen in blue.

Wearing black jerseys on defense: Colin White, Cory Murphy, Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene, Paul Martin. In white: Johnny Oduya, Mike Mottau, Mark Fraser, Alexander Urbom.

Goaltenders are Martin Brodeur, Yann Danis and Jeff Frazee.

10:06 a.m. – Veteran group on the ice for today's morning session of training camp.
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