Devils still strong enough to navigate the Atlantic
The Penguins have Sidney Crosby. The Rangers have reloaded with Scott Gomez. The Flyers are a whole new team. The Islanders have substantially revamped their roster.
So where do the defending Atlantic Division champ New Jersey Devils stand?
In all probability, right in the thick of things.
Even with the loss of Gomez to the Rangers and defenseman Brian Rafalski to the Detroit Red Wings, the Devils still boast goalie Martin Brodeur, a core group of players fully acquainted with the team concept and a new coach in Brent Sutter who plans to use that team system to its fullest.
Dainius Zubrus, who's coming off a 60-point season with Washington and Buffalo, was signed to make up for the loss of Gomez. The Devils also added veterans Karel Rachunek and Vitaly Vishnevski to bulk up the defense. Also, veteran defenseman Richard Matvichuk, who missed almost all of last season with a back injury, is healthy and rarin’ to go.
Up front, the Devils are still led by Patrik Elias, who was tops on the team in scoring last season with 69 points. Linemate Brian Gionta fell from 48 goals to 25 in a season that was compromised by groin problems. The Devils have every reason to expect continued development from third-year left wing Zach Parise and second-year center Travis Zajac. Rod Pelley and David Clarkson looked good in short spells last season, while Barry Tallackson will be given an opportunity to crack the lineup.
Kevin Weekes will be an upgrade as the backup goalie. Scott Clemmensen played in only six games last season, as Brodeur played 78 regular-season games, but looked tired in the playoffs. Expect Weekes to take some of the load off last season’s Vezina Trophy winner.