By Sam Rabin
New Jersey Devils Writer
Devils head coach John Hynes hosted a very “old school” style of practice on Thursday in which he punished his players with 5 full laps around the ice for every penalty the team took during their scrimmage. Hynes did not like what he saw on Wednesday against the Islanders, in which his team committed 9 minor penalties en route to a 4-3 loss. Early reviews suggest that this harsh style of practice worked, as his team was largely able to stay out of the box against the Florida Panthers tonight at West Point. Unfortunately, that is one of the few positives to take from tonight as the Devils submitted a sloppy performance and had little to show for the extra 5 on 5 time their discipline granted.
The top line tonight was centred by rookie forward Pavel Zacha who was granted a chance to play with Taylor Hall and Devante Smith-Pelly due to Adam Henrique’s currently undisclosed illness. While both Zacha and Hall have looked promising in earlier pre season games, there was a noticeable lack of chemistry between the two as they both seemed to be fighting for the same areas of the ice. It can safely be assumed that Adam Henrique will be placed back on the top line upon his return. Another forward of note is 2015 3rd round draft pick Blake Speers, who has unexpectedly made it to the final round of cuts and has made a strong case for himself throughout the preseason. Though he remains pointless, he showed some great speed and hands as he attempted to set up his line mates tonight. There remains one more cut to be made and Hynes has said he hasent yet decided if it will be a forward or defensemen. Speers will likely be the final cut due to his eligibility to go back to his Jr team, but his extended time with the Devils likely puts him on the fast track to a permanent roster spot for next season.
On the defensive side, rookies Yohann Auvitu and Stephen Santini were given a final chance to impress the coaching staff before final cuts are made. While Santini was a favorite to make the team prior to the pre season, Auvitu has made a strong case for himself with 6 assists in 4 games while playing an effective quarterback role on the power play, something the Devils have missed since trading Marek Zidlicky back in the 2014-15 season. As this will be Santini’s first pro year after finishing his 3 years at Boston College, Auvitu(who has played the last 4 seasons in the Finnish Elite League) will likely start the season in the big club while Santini gains more experience in Albany.
The Devils started the game well as captain Andy Greene got the team on the board 4 minutes in by finishing a nice pass to the slot by Kyle Palmieri. Jaromir Jagr quickly tied the game by deflecting Johnathan Marcessault’s wrist shot on the power play. The Panthers went on to score 3 additional unanswered goals from Ekblad, Scievior and Trocheck before the end of the 2nd period, despite being outshot by the Devils for the majority of the game. Trochecks’s goal was the result of a mistake by Goaltender Cory Schneider as he turned the puck over to the Panthers forward while attempting to play the puck from behind the net. This continues a run of poor pre season form for Schneider which he insists will be corrected by the start of the regular season. Mike Cammilleri was able to get one back for the Devils on the power play midway through the third off of a pass from Auvitu, which ended up being the game’s final goal.
John Hynes will look to correct some of the mistakes made tonight and demand more of an effort from his team despite the games lack of importance. Defenseman Damon Severson was noticeablely hesitant to finish his checks which will hurt the team mid season. The Devils will look to avenge this loss at their regular season opener at the BB&T center on October 13th.