Preseason Over: What’s To Come Between Now And Opening Night


First off, I apologize for not being able to livetweet Thursday’s game as I intended to, as my television was fading in and out all night.  Hopefully, there will be chances for me to do so as the season begins, as I had much fun with it during the Devils-Rangers game in Albany last week.

Last night’s 2-1 victory wrapped up a series of three straight 2-1 outcomes (of which the Devils won the last two), as well as the 2011 preseason.  While there will still be more training to come in the next week, the coaching staff and management has seen six games worth of player performances, which they can now evaluate and ultimately decide who will earn the final roster spots up for grabs.  The coaches, specifically, have now seen various combinations of lines, both offensively and defensively, and will have to make decisions as to who will play on what lines, as well as who should play together (see: Parise-Elias, Kovy-Josefson, etc.).

First off, it appears there is a very good chance we could see fourth overall pick Adam Larsson amongst the Devils’ blue line corps come opening night.  Both DeBoer and Larsson himself have hinted at his probability of making the lineup, as he has impressed fans and staff alike with his preseason play.  The Swede has shown great skill passing the puck, while taking some good shots from the point as well as defending competently behind his own blue line.  Obviously, the eyes of many would be on Larsson should he be one of the six defensemen to stick with the team, and it would be exciting for us fans to see what the youngster has to offer.

Then there’s the story of camp, in 34-year-old right wing Petr Sykora, a storied member of the 2000 cup-champion Devils and a winger on the famed “A” line of a decade ago.  Sykora has shown, in limited game action (including the red and white scrimmage a couple weeks ago) that he can still produce in this league; however, the question of to what extent remains, as well as whether he could skate with proven NHLers, having not done so in two years.

His competition, at the moment, looks to include Vladimir Zharkov, Steve Bernier, and, potentially, Cam Janssen (possibly for playing time, as both could make the opening night roster), among others.   And while these wingers he is currently battling could all be capable of playing in the league, I believe Sykora should, ultimately, be given a spot on this team.  The veteran has produced as much as anyone on the roster this preseason, and last night’s impressive breakaway goal, in which Sykora beat Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov, just might have sealed his fate.  In the end, I would expect him to be in the lineup when October 8th rolls around, on what should be one of the Devils’ latter lines.

Truthfully, I was impressed, to say the least, with not only some of the tryouts (including Anton Stralman and the aforementioned Bernier), but also with the depth the Devils should have in their system for the 2011-2012 season and beyond.  Players like Brad Mills and Stephen Gionta deserve a shot, eventually, to stick with the team; while I doubt this would come in the upcoming season, I am hopeful for them that it will at a later time.  A lot of skaters (as well as goaltenders; let’s not forget Kincaid and Frazee) worked very hard throughout the last handful of weeks, many of which will be disappointed when the opening night roster is announced.  We can be hopeful that these players have a future in this league, which the next few camps and preseasons could bring to fruition.


P.S.: University of Michigan defenseman Jon Merrill, one of the Devils’ top prospects, was suspended twelve games by the university, a significant number considering that the college season is much shorter than the NHL’s.  Lou Lamoriello stated that he understands the suspension, which is not the first time that Merill has faced disciplinary action from Michigan.  It would be a shame for the 19-year-old’s potentially outstanding career to be at all affected by off-the-ice issues, and we know that the Devils will not put up with anything like this should his negative behavior move along with him to the NHL.  Hopefully, Merill can leave this behind, and resume pn his path towards becoming a quality blue liner in this league.

P.P.S.: Now that we’re less than a week away from opening night, we will hopefully get to such topics as line, player, as well as NHL predictions for the upcoming season.  There will be a lot sorted out in the next six days, so be sure to stay tuned.  We’re so close to October 8th; who else can’t wait for the season to begin?