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Original Issue

7 New Jersey Devils A new coach and a new mix up front sharpen a perennial Eastern power

One of new coach Pat Burns's pet drills looks like, well, a drill
for pets. During a training camp workout the Devils learned the
price Burns exacts for mistakes such as failing to exit the ice
quickly enough on a line change. Burns made the team flop onto
the ice and roll over several times until he blew the whistle,
leaving one to wonder when he might teach his team to sit up or
fetch. "It's not punishment," Burns says. "It's an awareness
thing. You have to be accountable for what you do."

Then again, a drill that emphasizes turning over is fitting for
New Jersey, which has significantly changed the cast that won the
Stanley Cup in 2000 and reached Game 7 of the finals a year
later. Coach Larry Robinson was fired 51 games into last season
and replaced by Kevin Constantine, who was canned after the
Devils were eliminated by the Hurricanes in Round 1. Only left
wing Patrik Elias remains from the erstwhile A-Line, as right
wing Petr Sykora was dealt to Anaheim in July, four months after
center Jason Arnott was shipped to Dallas. Also, standout center
Bobby Holik signed a five-year, $45 million free-agent deal with
the Rangers.

"We needed new blood," Elias says. "We had an awesome team for
two years, but last year it didn't work."

The Devils have undeniable strengths. The defense is an excellent
mix of speedy puck movers (Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafalski and
newcomer Oleg Tverdovsky) and bangers (Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko
and Colin White). Goalie Martin Brodeur is still as sharp as
ever. There is added team speed, exemplified by new winger Jeff
Friesen. Burns also excels as a turnaround specialist, winning
three Jack Adams Awards, each in his first year with a new team.

The big question is whether the Devils can score enough to get
back to the finals. The 6'1", 195-pound Elias has led New Jersey
in scoring for the past three seasons, but last year he slumped
to 29 goals and 61 points as the club tied for 20th in goals
scored. The Devils are also hoping for a better performance from
center Scott Gomez, whose points have dropped in the two seasons
since he won the Calder Trophy in 1999-2000 (from 70 to 63 to
48), and a breakthrough year from 5'7" winger Brian Gionta, 23.
If the offense doesn't come through, the players can expect more
turnover next off-season. --Pete McEntegart


Goalie Martin Brodeur has played 70 or more games in five
straight seasons, two fewer than the record held by Glenn Hall.



OFFENSE 16 Expect a healthy Nieuwendyk to have big season
DEFENSE 2 Excellent mobility, grit; Tverdovsky will flourish
GOALTENDING 3 Addition of Schwab allows Brodeur needed rest
SPECIAL TEAMS 10 PP will be tough with smallish snipers Elias,
Gionta, Brylin
MANAGEMENT 1 When G.M. Lamoriello makes mistakes, he corrects