PHILADELPHIA -- The New Jersey Devils will begin the season with a significantly different look on defense Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
The departures of Anton Volchenkov (Nashville Predators) and Mark Fayne (Edmonton Oilers) opened the door for four players age 23 or younger to make the roster: Jon Merrill (22), Eric Gelinas (23), Adam Larsson (21) and Damon Severson (20).
Those four will join veterans Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky and captain Bryce Salvador. It appears Larsson will be the odd-man out against the Flyers, but coach Peter DeBoer said after the morning skate no lineup is set in stone game-to-game.
The biggest surprise is Severson, a second-round pick (No. 60) in the 2012 NHL Draft. He'll be paired with Greene in the opener.
"We wanted to give him a partner that could help him, and there's no better guy than Andy to help a young guy along," DeBoer said. "[Greene] is so smart and communicates on the ice and is a perfect partner for a young guy playing his first game."
Severson said he is looking forward to making his NHL debut, especially in Philadelphia.
"I didn't get the chance to play in the preseason game in Philadelphia so it's my first time here and first NHL game; everything is going to be an eye-opening experience," Severson said. "At the same time, I have to play hockey and have to do my thing out there to be successful."
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-hand shot had a strong training camp in 2013 but was returned to his junior team, the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, where he had 15 goals and 61 points in 64 games. That fourth full season in junior hockey proved to be critical as he made an even greater impression this preseason.
The Devils opted to keep Severson rather than veteran Peter Harrold, who was sent to the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League after clearing waivers Wednesday.
Severson said he is looking forward to playing alongside Greene.
"If we see something for one another I'm not afraid to approach him, and he knows as a veteran guy he can say anything he wants to me and I'll take the positives," Severson said. "It's really good having him back there with me. Hopefully we can mesh together well."
Greene said he expects Severson to play well.
"He's very mobile, makes a lot of great plays, can skate like the wind and is very confident," Greene said. "It's a fun place to start off here in Philly and it'll be a good lesson for him, a good first test."
The Devils are 18-8-1 with four ties in their history in season openers, but 2-4-1 in the past seven. The Flyers lost to the Boston Bruins 2-1 at TD Garden on Wednesday.
Here are the projected lineups:
Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - Martin Havlat
Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder
Tuomo Ruutu - Stephen Gionta - Jordin Tootoo
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Scratched: Damien Brunner, Jacob Josefson, Adam Larsson
Brayden Schenn – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Matt Read – Sean Couturier – Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl – Vincent Lecavalier – R.J. Umberger
Zac Rinaldo - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Jason Akeson
Braydon Coburn - Andrew MacDonald
Mark Streit - Nicklas Grossmann
Luke Schenn - Michael Del Zotto
Scratched: Nick Schultz, Blair Jones
Injured: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots), Ryan White (torn pectoral muscle)
Status report: The forward and defense combinations for the Devils are the same as in practice Wednesday. … Zajac, who left the ice with lower-body tightness during practice Tuesday, has practiced the past two days and is expected in the lineup. … Flyers coach Craig Berube confirmed after an optional practice that Mason will start in goal after his 31-save performance Wednesday in the loss to the Bruins. Mason is 0-4-0 with a 3.28 goals-against average and .887 save percentage in four career games against the Devils.