The New Jersey Devils wrapped up their preseason schedule last night in a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers for their fourth win in six exhibition games.
One of the questions coming into the season for New Jersey was whether or not they filled the gaps left behind by Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson and would be able to generate enough offense without them.
Outscoring their opponents 18-11 while scoring three or more goals on three occasions, the Devils certainly answered some of the doubters.
Without an elite top-forward, the Devils will rely on a four-line rotation and added the depth this summer to do it. Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder were two of the pieces Lou Lamoriello went out and grabbed along with Jaromir Jagr and most recently, Damien Brunner.
Unfortunately for some Devils players, the addition of new faces means some of the familiar ones may be heading out.
With three days before their training camp roster has to be reduced to 23, the coaching staff has difficult decisions to make. Carrying a 28-man roster means five players that have been on the ice through September won’t be there on Thursday when the Devils open the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
One of the players that may be gone is Stephen Gionta.
The 29-year old that sparked the Devils fourth line and helped them to the Stanley Cup Finals just two years ago finds himself as a player on the brink of being shipped out due to overcrowdedness of forwards. In what may have been one of the most important training camps Gionta has attended, the Rochester native was unable to find the scoresheet in four games.
While head coach Pete DeBoer has referred to Gionta as an important part of the Devils team, he has also become one of the expendable players on the roster. If Gionta is one of the pieces that no longer fits, he would have to clear waivers before being assigned to Albany leaving the possibility of getting picked up by another team with no compensation for the Devils.
Gionta, the younger brother of former Devil and current Montreal Canadien became a fixture for New Jersey at the end of the 2011-2012 season. After scoring a goal in the last game of the regular season, Gionta earned a spot on the fourth line alongside Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter heading into the playoffs. In 24 post-season games, Gionta scored three goals including the goal which tied Game 7 against the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, sending the game into overtime. Gionta was rewarded with a two-year contract which ends at the end of the 2013-2014 season.
Two other players looking to remain in New Jersey but are on the chopping block are Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby. Josefson has come out on the right side of the training camp cut list before but has yet to stay healthy enough to fill out his duties for a complete season. Similarly, Tedenby has been unable to find a permanent home in New Jersey but more due to his lack of size and defensive-abilities than anything else.
Tedenby, who had one goal in his lone game against the New York Rangers this preseason has been out of the line-up since the opening game with a lower-body injury.
Over the next three days there will be changes made.However it plays out, Devils fans can breathe a little easier knowing the Devils biggest problem is no longer “how do we get talent” but rather,what do we do now that we have so much of it?
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