Jaromir Jagr

Will getting older, bigger up front help New Jersey score goals?


On paper, the scenario didn’t look good.

The New Jersey Devils — who finished last year with the third-fewest goals for (110) in the league — watched former 30-goal man David Clarkson sign in Toronto this summer, then had their most prolific sniper, Ilya Kovalchuk, abruptly retire.

Those subtractions alone were reason for pessimism.

In response, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello took an interesting approach to solving those offensive woes — he went targeted older, bigger and more experienced players.

Quite a few of them, actually.

Lamoriello’s biggest splash came by signing Ryane Clowe to a five-year, $24.25 million deal.

Clowe, who turns 31 in September, averaged 20 goals per season from 2008-12.

The savviest move might’ve been inking 33-year-old Michael Ryder to a two-year, $7 million pact. Though he’s been cast aside a few times in his career, Ryder’s goalscoring ability cannot be denied — he had 16 in 48 games last year and 35 in 82 games two seasons ago.

Lamoreillo’s most publicized move, though, was inking Jaromir Jagr.

Jagr, 41, is still producing at a clip most players would envy. His 35 points last year would’ve put him second on the Devils, one shy of Patrik Elias’ team-leading 36 — and that came during a season in which Jagr estimates he played over 100 games all told.

The Jagr deal — bringing on the NHL’s second-oldest skater — embodied New Jersey’s overall offseason approach, as Lamoriello also re-upped with 35-year-old Dainius Zubrus and 37-year-old Elias, giving the Devils a forward makeup filled with veterans. Of the club’s “top 12” forwards, only Adam Henrique and Andrei Loktionov are under the age of 28.

But the question remains: Can relying so heavily on bigger, older players work in the current NHL?

According Lamoriello, experience teamed with the size (Clowe, Jagr and Zubrus are all at least 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds) should work just fine.

“We like our team right now,” he told the Associated Press. “Certainly our goaltending is improved. Our defence is improved because of the experience of the young guys and up front we are going to be a four-line team.

“We have power-play people and penalty killers. This will be one of the bigger teams we’ve had.”

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.