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NHL New Jersey Devils

5 Things New Jersey Devils Must Do To Be Successful During 2013-14 Season

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5 Things the New Jersey Devils Must Do To Be Successful

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils have an uphill climb this season with the new re-alignment. They take on some of the biggest superstars in the NHL. As of right now, most experts have them missing the playoffs. It seems that they are once again looked over for teams with bigger names.

The Devils had a crazy season last year. They started off the season on a run that made them look like they didn't miss the departed Zach Parise at all. Then Martin Brodeur got injured, and it all went downhill. They went on a record long losing streak and Johan Hedberg could not stem the bleeding.

This offseason seemed to make things worse with the departure of Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson from an already depleted offense. The mainstream hockey media will see those moves and think the team is in bad shape.

So what will the Devils need to do to be successful in the 2013-14 season? What needs to happen for this team to turn around what happened last season? There are so many questions that still need to be answered. The fact is, the Devils' front office did a good job of putting a good team on the ice.

The success of the Devils directly hinges on five different factors. If these five things happen, then it will be a very good Devils season. If not, then this will be another hard season to watch for fans. After being one of the best teams in the NHL for over a decade, they've missed the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. This season will tell a lot for the future of this franchise.

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5. Need To Keep Defensive Pairs Together

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It cannot be stressed enough that the fact that the Devils got rid of an extra defenseman will help this team immensely. This season, they need to recreate the kind of chemistry they had when they had their run to the Stanley Cup Finals. They pretty much have the same group together, except with a more seasoned Adam Larsson. Last season, the defense looked like it was out of place. Healthy scratches seemed to hurt Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder. They need to keep defensive pairs together so that their chemistry can make them better than other, more talented pairs.

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4. No Major Injuries

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the injury bug hit the Devils hard. Ilya Kovachuk was out for a month with a shoulder injury. Martin Brodeur was out for longer with a back injury. Dainius Zubrus, Bryce Salvador and Adam Henrique also dealt with injuries. It is unrealistic to say that nobody can get injured for a team to be successful, but the Devils need to avoid major injuries to big-name players. If they can keep the team they have on the ice for most of the season, then they will be a surprise team in the Metropolitan Division.

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3. Need To Have Pre-Injury Martin Brodeur

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In Martin Brodeur's first 13 games before he left with a back injury, he was 8-1-3 with a .911 save percentage and one shutout. After returning from injury, he was just not good. He had a save percentage under .900. At one point, Brodeur lost 10 games in a row. No goalie should lose five in a row, but 10 is a season killer. If he can somehow play to the level he did in the first 13 games, then that will really help this Devils team. Throw in the fact that Cory Schneider has looked amazing, and this goalie duo can carry this team to another level.

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2. Splitting Overtime and Shootout Games Is Essential

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011-12, the Devils were exceptional in the shootout and overtime. Last season, they were downright awful. They went 2-7 in shootouts and led the league with 10 overtime losses. They need to find themselves better clutch scoring. I think that is where the signing of Damien Brunner will really come into play. He showed in the playoffs last season that he relishes the pressure. He scored an overtime winner against the Anaheim Ducks early in their series. If the Devils can get two points in those games instead of one, they will have a much better season.

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1. Need To Score On The Power Play

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Devils were in the bottom third of the league when it comes to power play percentage. They are very good at causing the other team to take a penalty, ranking third with 176 power play opportunities last season. The problem they need to fix is to convert when they are given these chances. They have a number of role players like Ryder, Clowe and Henrique, but they need someone to take Kovalchuk's place at the point. Having that kind of sniper at the top will bring the defense out and open it up for the rest of the team. That kind of player would turn the Devils' power play around.