The New Jersey Devils opened another camp in September at South Mountain Arena on Friday morning. The first two days were filled with drills for the younger players with the coaching staff, mixed scrimmages with veterans and the news of one Devils leaving while another was returning. Jamie Langenbrunner did not participate in Saturday’s activities and will be absent for the next couple of days as his wife is giving birth to their third child. Also, news got around of the return of Scott Gomez as he ended his brief holdout by signing a two-year contract agreement.
Sunday morning’s camp opened a little differently compared to the previous two days. The afternoon session would see a scrimmage between the veterans of the New Jersey Devils against the younger prospects and minor leaguers. Since only a certain amount of rookies can play in the scrimmage, the morning skate was designated for those who would sit and watch in the afternoon. Those skating in the morning included enforcer Rob Skrlac, forwards Brandon Nolan, Ahren Nittel, Chris Hartsburg, Jason Lehoux, Bill Kinkel, Robin Leblanc, defencemen Phil Cole, Alex Brooks, and goalies Scott Clemmensen and Matus Kostur. Since he just joined the team, Scott Gomez skated in the morning and did not participate in the afternoon session. For the third day in a row, Sergei Brylin sported the unnumbered practice jersey while skating on the ice by himself. For about an hour, Brylin worked in a variety of drills all designed to test the strength and durability of his reconstructed knee with the strength and conditioning coach. He skated very well and seems to be almost back into his old form. It is unclear when he will join the rest of the squad.
At about 12 noon, both the veterans, wearing the home white jerseys, and the rookies and prospects wearing visitors red, skated onto the ice to an ovation of about 75 fans. Goalies Martin Brodeur, Corey Schwab and Ari Ahonen split duties for the afternoon rotating between both teams. The rookies dressed 12 forwards and 8 defensemen, while Jiri Bicek, Christian Berglund, Brian Gionta, Steve Guolla and Andreas Salomonsson played with the veterans.
The Rookie team’s lines were:
LW C RW
Dave Roche Mike Danton Andrei Posnov
Max Birbraer Adrian Foster Craig Darby
Mike Rupp Eric Johansson Cam Janssen
Brett Clouthier Scott Cameron Joe Hulbig
Mikko Jokela Anton Kadeykin
Ray Giroux Mike Matteucci
Ken Sutton Krisjanis Redlihs
Daryl Andrews Victor Uchevatov
The Rookies started out a little shaky, as expected against the veteran squad. The older Devils dominated the majority of the play deep in the zone and put good pressure on the Prospect defence. But once they got settled in, the rookies cleared the zone nicely, made some good plays and worked the puck well. On offense, Mike Danton and his line played very well. Danton, formerly known as Mike Jefferson, won majority of his faceoffs, made some solid hits, had one nice hard high shot and skated very intensely. He is skating like he has something to prove. Overall, he played well, but not totally error free. Once or twice he was caught out of position including when the veteran squad had the puck down low behind the net and Danton left a player unchecked in front of the net which resulted in a shot on goal that was saved by Ari Ahonen. Danton’s right-winger, 2001 4th round pick Andrei Posnov played very well. He is a fast and smooth skater and handles the puck very well. He seemed to work well with Danton and 27-year-old Dave Roche on the left.
Adrian Foster centered the line of Max Birbraer and Craig Darby. At first, this line had a tough time, but they would later redeem themselves. Foster won several faceoffs including three against Patrik Elias. Birbraer and Darby both forechecked nicely and forced a turnover deep in the zone. Max collected the puck and found Foster who proceeded to make a nice move on the defencemen and score on a back-hand shot to the far side beating Corey Schwab. Darby during the scrimmage also used his size effectively. Mike Rupp also seemed a little shaky at first and out of place on the left wing, but he settled in and started to play better. In the end, some of the rookies who played offense were just overmatched and out classed by Rafalski, Neidermayer, Stevens and the rest of the Devils defence.
Of the four defensive pairs for the Rookie squad, Mikko Jokela and Anton Kadeykin were the best two. They cleared the zone well, had a good transition game, and did not seem overwhelmed or out classed by the attacking veterans. 2002 draft pick Krisjanis Redlihs also played well with Captain Ken Sutton. The youngster Victor Uchevatov received some instruction from Scott Stevens after the first period of play.
Playing up with the veterans, Christian Berglund looked very impressive and will most likely find a spot in New Jersey. He put a couple of nice moves on the younger skaters, checked well in the corners and along the boards and played with an intense desire that is needed on the top club. Brian Gionta also played well and will find a spot on the top club, while Jiri Bicek stumbled a little bit and will more than likely be back in Albany at the start of the season. Andreas Salomonsson, Steve Goulla, Mike Rupp, Craig Darby, Adrian Foster, and Dave Roche are also fighting for spots in New Jersey and the competition is getting good.