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Devils begin post-Parise era by facing Islanders

by John Kreiser

DEVILS (0-0-0) at ISLANDERS (0-0-0)


Season series: This is the first of five meetings between the teams this season -- four of which take place in the first four weeks of the season. The Devils won four of the six meetings last season, including the last three.

Big story: The Devils take the ice for the first time since losing Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in Los Angeles last June, while the Islanders begin their wind-down at the Nassau Coliseum, which they will leave no later than the start of the 2015-16 season for their new home in Brooklyn.

Team Scope:

Devils: The Devils have almost the whole cast back from the team that came within two wins of the Stanley Cup last spring -- but the one missing piece is a big one. Captain Zach Parise signed with the Minnesota Wild during the summer, leaving the Devils with a hole on their first line.

Veteran defenseman Bryce Salvador was named as the new captain on Friday, with Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias as alternates.

"He's been around the League for a long time," Elias said. "He's a well-respected guy in this locker room. Everybody likes him and he always gives 100 percent on the ice and his approach to the game, all the guys can take a lot from him."

Replacing Parise's leadership figures to be easier that replacing his offensive output -- he was second on the team with 31 goals and third with 65 points. The Devils are hoping newly resigned center Travis Zajac, who missed most of last season after Achilles tendon surgery, will help fill the void.

"It's been a little bit of a roller-coaster ride," said Zajac, who signed an eight-year deal with the Devils on Wednesday. "Coming off that major injury last year I didn't know what was going to happen. But, like everything, I put it behind me and got on with playing hockey and, obviously, I get a chance to do that here for a number of years."

Islanders: It's been a long half-decade on Long Island -- the Islanders have finished last in the Atlantic Division and out of the playoffs in all five seasons since their last trip to the postseason in 2007. The offense revolves around emerging star John Tavares, but the Isles made few significant offseason moves to upgrade themselves, opting instead to tinker by signing former 40-goal scorer Brad Boyes to replace departed first-liner PA Parenteau and grabbing defensemen Joe Finley and Thomas Hickey and forward Keith Aucoin on waivers.

With Parenteau gone to Colorado as a free agent, Tavares and left wing sidekick Matt Moulson will be joined on the top line by 2007 first-rounder Kyle Okposo, who has yet to live up to his status as the seventh player taken in his draft year but had a career-best 24 goals last season thanks to a strong finish.

"With a short camp, we thought it'd be best to try Kyle on that line," coach Jack Capuano said. "Kyle played a short stint with Johnny and Mouls last season and they were probably one of the top lines in the League."

Injury report: New Jersey will start the season without center Adam Henrique, a Calder Trophy finalist in 2011-12. He's skating again still a couple of weeks away from returning after surgery in December to fix a broken left thumb. … The Islanders are without forwards Josh Bailey (knee surgery) and Jesse Joensuu (groin), both of whom were injured while playing overseas. Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, acquired from Anaheim in June, has yet to report and is still at home in Slovakia due to personal reasons.

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