Devils’ top lines are gearing up for season opener
NEWARK – The Devils’ lines are beginning to take shape.
The preseason finale is Saturday against the Florida Panthers at West Point, N.Y., and those teams open the regular season against each other Thursday night in Sunrise, Fla.
The Devils still need to trim their roster from the 30 players remaining in training camp to the NHL regular-season maximum of 23.
Cuts are expected Sunday.
There is fierce competition for forward spots among Joseph Blandisi, Reid Boucher, Jacob Josefson, Nick Lappin, Blake Speers, Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha.
But coach John Hynes may just have given a preview of his top two lines at yesterday’s practice, with the assumption that these trios will stick together for today’s practice at Barnabas Health Hockey House at Prudential Center and for Saturday’s game.
Adam Henrique remained with his junior hockey linemate, Taylor Hall, as the core of the top line. But Devante Smith-Pelly replaced ex-Penguin Beau Bennett as the right wing.
“I think we need somebody who’s got to come in and play at a high pace, be able to make some plays, have energy and come in on puck in the offensive zone,” Hynes said when asked what he was looking for in a right wing to complete the trio. “Off the initial chance, someone who can hunt down pucks and keep the play alive.”
Hynes said inserting Smith-Pelly, who had eight goals an five assists in 18 games for the Devils after being acquired from the Canadiens, for Bennett was a matter of rewarding Smith-Pelly’s play in training camp and recognizing Bennett did not secure the job when given two games to play on that line.
“Smith-Pelly has played very well,” Hynes said. “We haven’t had him in a top-six role either in practice or in games. Based on his play, he’s earned that spot.”
Meanwhile, the second line may also be set with Travis Zajac centering left wing Mike Cammalleri and Kyle Palmieri, who tied Henrique for the Devils’ goal lead with 30 last season.
“They played pretty well [Wednesday] night,” Hynes said of a 3-2 loss to the Islanders at The Rock. “We want to find guys that have chemistry and play well together.”