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Devils, DeBoer prepare to move on without Parise

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- While the loss of captain Zach Parise via free agency was tough to take, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer is confident his group can pick up where it left off last season.

Minneapolis-born Parise agreed to a 13-year, $98 million deal with the Minnesota Wild on July 4. The contract will keep the 27-year-old in his home state until age 40. He had spent his first seven seasons in the League with the Devils.

Zach Parise has joined forces with Ryan Suter in Minnesota, leaving Devils coach Peter DeBoer no choice but to move on and build off the team's Cup Final run. (Photo: Getty Images)

"Your initial reaction is disappointment," DeBoer said. "You're happy for Zach in that he got rewarded with the contract he did, and you can see his excitement and happiness in being able to go home and play in front of his parents and family."

Parise had 31 goals and 69 points in 82 regular-season games last season, his first as captain. He was sixth in the League in playoff scoring with 15 points, including eight goals, in 24 postseason contests. The Devils dropped a six-game series to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.

"In our end, it's disappointment in not having the opportunity to continue to work with him," DeBoer said. "He's such a great kid and he stands for all the right things. He was obviously an important part of our team, but this League allows you to feel sorry for yourself for about two minutes and then you have to pick yourself up and come up with a plan moving forward. I think that's where we're at now … moving forward."

DeBoer, who was in town to watch the organization's prospects at development camp, said he is happy that his entire defense remains intact for 2012-13 and that his hard-working fourth line of Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier will return for another season. He hasn't put a date on naming a new captain.

"It's way down my list right now of things we're concentrating on, but we'll get to it eventually," he said.

"I can tell you I'm very comfortable with our leadership group," DeBoer added. "I said that even when Zach was here wearing the 'C.' This wasn't a one-man job, and there's a lot of candidates [to be named captain]."

Zach Parise
Zach Parise
Left Wing - MIN
GOALS: 31 | ASST: 38 | PTS: 69
SOG: 293 | +/-: -5
The second-year coach is optimistic his group will adjust to life without Parise.

"We have to," DeBoer said. "I think the thing we've shown last year, and even in prior years here, is this program is bigger than individual people and we found a way over the years to fill holes.

"[Travis] Zajac missed the entire year, [Ilya] Kovalchuk went down in Game 2 of the Philly series when we were down 1-0, but we played one of our best games of the year [in Game 2], so that's the mentality here. We have to carry that into next year without Zach."

Parise, taken by the Devils with the 17th pick in the 2003 NHL Draft, recorded 194 goals and 216 assists in seven seasons with the club. He made a great turnaround in 2011-12 after sitting out almost all of the 2010-11 season with a knee injury.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

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