Zach Parise

2011-2012 season preview: New Jersey Devils

2010-2011 record: 38-39-5, 81 points; 4th in Atlantic, 11th in East
Playoffs: Did not qualify

The New Jersey Devils had one of the worst starts to a season any team could imagine. They also had a rally of extreme proportions that got them back into the race for the playoffs, but ultimately fell short. With Jacques Lemaire gone and Peter DeBoer in as the new coach, the Devils hope they can return to the postseason.

Offense

The Devils are always a team focused on defense, but this team can put pucks in the net when healthy. This season they’ll have a surgically repaired Zach Parise to join Ilya Kovalchuk as the team’s top two offensive threats. Elder statesmen like Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus hope they can give leadership to youngsters like Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson who could be major contributors. The Devils will have to sweat out the absence of Travis Zajac to start the season. Outside of these guys, however, there’s not much going offensively in New Jersey.

Defense

Defensively, the Devils are virtually the same as they were last year. They’re led by Andy Greene and Anton Volchenkov with Henrik Tallinder as the veterans. Young guys like Mark Fayne, Matt Taormina, and Mark Fraser round out the group but the focus will be on 2011 first-round pick Adam Larsson and how well he can adapt to the NHL right away. His experience playing in the Swedish pro league will help and make him a potential Calder candidate.

source: Getty ImagesGoalie

Martin Brodeur is the be-all, end-all here once again. At 39, he’s on the backside of his career and he can’t quite be the workhorse he has been in the past … can he? With 38 year-old Johan Hedberg backing him up and things being a bit thin in the Devils’ system in goal, they’ve got to pray that Brodeur can have at least one more great year. Even Brodeur being average by his standards will mean good things for New Jersey. But if his age and health catch up to him … look out.

Coaching

Peter DeBoer enters his first year behind the Devils’ bench after being dumped by the Florida Panthers after three losing seasons there. Replacing Jacques Lemaire is never easy in New Jersey because a bad stretch could just mean that Lemaire or GM Lou Lamoriello comes out of the woodwork to do things their way. No pressure there at all.

Breakout candidate

Aside from Larsson, winger Nick Palmieri shapes up to be the guy that could help the Devils the most. After a solid rookie season and appearance with Team USA at the World Championships, Palmieri is poised to seize the day as a key contributor. He’s got good size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and showed a knack for the net with nine goals in 43 games last season. Getting a good season out of him will help balance out their lines.

source: Getty ImagesBest-case scenario

Parise and Kovalchuk each score 40 goals while Travis Zajac returns and becomes a top setup man in the middle. Larsson is a revelation on the blue line, streaking forward to a Calder Trophy season. Brodeur stays healthy and goes back to the well with one more brilliant Vezina nomination-worthy season and the Devils ease into the playoffs without stress.

Reality

Parise, who was recently named captain, will have a big season. He’s healthy, looks fast and sharp on the ice and he’ll take the pressure off of Kovalchuk to carry the burden of the offense. The defense gives reason to pause, but the Devils and their system always find a way to make it work and hide any deficiencies. We don’t want to say it all boils down to how Brodeur fares, but that’s how it almost feels. The Atlantic Division is brutal to play in, however, and none of those games are going to be easy. It’ll be a round of rock ‘em-sock ‘em robots to get into the playoffs for the Devils.

Report: Ehrhoff headed to Bruins on a PTO

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The Boston Bruins were under some serious pressure this summer to improve their group of defensemen.

That didn’t happen.

With training camp and the preseason now in full swing, it appears the Bruins are bringing in a veteran blue liner — at least on a professional tryout.

On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that unrestricted free agent blue liner Christian Ehrhoff is about to join Boston on a PTO following his showing at the World Cup of Hockey.

In six games with Team Europe, Ehrhoff had three assists — all at even strength — and nine shots on goal.

Ehrhoff is now 34 years old, and the Bruins already have a pair of seasoned defenders in Zdeno Chara (39 years old) and John-Michael Liles (35 years old) on their roster. Adam McQuaid turns 30 years old in October.

Ehrhoff played last season on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, and was placed on waivers in February while with the L.A. Kings, before he was traded to Chicago. Age and injuries have caught up to him, and he never did fit with the Kings’ style under Darryl Sutter.

He was most productive during two seasons in Vancouver, a puck-moving defenseman that could effectively skate the puck out of trouble and move the attack that way if need be. But that was from 2009 to 2011. His production has dipped, especially over the last three years.

He was also pivotal to Vancouver’s power play, especially in 2011 when the Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy and made it to the Stanley Cup Final — against Boston.

Again, that was five years ago.

Lehner (forearm contusion) to miss preseason game versus Maple Leafs

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The Buffalo Sabres will not have goalie Robin Lehner in their lineup Friday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As per the Sabres, Lehner is dealing with a forearm contusion and will not dress for this preseason game. Jason Kasdorf will start in net for Buffalo.

Members of the media in Buffalo have noted that if this were a regular season game, Lehner would be able to play.

Lehner had ankle surgery in March, ending his 2015-16 season. His ankle issues dated even further back, to the beginning of last season when he suffered a high-ankle sprain.

The Sabres have some exciting young players on their roster, especially up front, but they need Lehner to be healthy if they are to take a run at a playoff spot this season.

Behind him sit Linus Ullmark, Anders Nilsson and Kasdorf, who have a combined 73 games of NHL experience between them all.

Matthews to sit out preseason tilt versus Sabres, as Maple Leafs give him ‘a little break’

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews poses for a portrait after being selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.

“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.

“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”

(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)

On a night when the No. 2 overall selection Patrik Laine is slated to make his preseason debut for the Winnipeg Jets, fans wishing to see Matthews don a Maple Leafs jersey in his anticipated debut will have to wait.

Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.

The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.

McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious

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It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.

The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.

He left the game and didn’t return.

Good news, however, from the Oilers: Head coach Todd McLellan told reporters on Friday that the injury — lower body — is not serious, as per the team’s Twitter account.

According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the 28-year-old Maroon is expected to be ready for Edmonton’s season opener against the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 12.

The Oilers acquired Maroon at last season’s trade deadline, a move that certainly added size and an element of grit to their group of forwards.

In 16 games with Edmonton, he scored eight goals and 14 points. In 56 games with Anaheim that same season, he registered only 13 points before the trade.