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Pre-Training Camp Skate for the NJ Devils; Brian Rolston's Confidence; David Clarkson & the NHLPA

Today, you can imagine Rich Chere and Tom Gulitti morphing into some Brock Samson-like figure and ramming a giant pole vault of news into the unaware and gaping mouth of a security guard outside the fortress of a boring summer.  The New Jersey Devils held a pre-training camp skate at the Rock, and so both came away with plenty of reports and quotes from the various players.  There are three items from both I that I feel are worth special attention.

First, and foremost, is who showed up at this pre-training camp skate. Chere has the goods:

Those on the ice were Jay Pandolfo, Brendan Shanahan, Brian Rolston, Rod Pelley, David Clarkson, Ilkka Pikkarainen, Matt Halischuk, Jamie Langenbrunner, Bryce Salvador, Jay Leach, Andy Greene, Mark Fraser, Yann Danis, Michael Swift, Jeff Frazee and Vladimir Zharkov.

I bolded the names of the players who will definitely be getting long looks in training camp.  Frazee, Swift, Zharkov, and Fraser may be good best to head down to Lowell.  However, showing up in advance of training camp definitely cannot hurt their chances to make a good impression.   Ditto for Pelley, Pikkarainen, Greene, Danis, and Leach who have, as a gut reaction, a better chance of making it onto the Devils roster. 

Please continue on to read about Brian Rolston's big words to the media today as well as some thoughts about the recent NHLPA firing of Paul Kelly.

Second, as Chere reports, Jay Pandolfo and Brian Rolston are looking for a fresh start with Jacques Lemaire as Chere reported earlier today. As they should as both players did not do well in the 2008-09 season.  Gulitti has more in-depth quotes with Pandolfo (congratulations to him as he is now a dad) and some big words from Brian Rolston.  The following was all reported by Gulitti:

What about Lemaire's style fits you well?

"I don't think it's necessarily his style that fits me. I just think that he gave me responsibility. Last year, I didn't feel like I was given much responsibility. At the beginning of the season, it started off great, but after my injury I didn't feel like I was put into positions to succeed. And I'm just looking forward to that. You know? To have that opportunity. I believe that's why I was brought here in the first place. I'm just excited about it. I'm excited about being with Jacques and (assistant coach) Mario (Tremblay), guys that I spent probably the majority of my career playing for."

And Rolston setting a pretty big goal for himself in terms of, well, goals:

Do you expect to get a chance to play on the first line?

"You know, here's the deal. We talked about this at the beginning of last year when I was supposed to come in and be the first-line center. The fact of the matter is Travis...I believe that Zach is one of the best players in the league. Those guys (Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner) are our first line. They were our first line last year. I don't know how Jacques is going to do it. A lot of times he'd split guys up to make sure everybody was going. Not that I'm saying that's going to happen, but I believe that was our first line. I'm just going to try to contribute the way I have in the past. I want to get back to 30 goals and I want to contribute to the team. That's the most important thing to me right now. Not scoring 30, but I need to get back to that. For us to be successful, I believe I have to get back there and I think I will."

If you needed confirmation of this:

What would it mean to the team if you were able to get back to 30 goals?

"Well, you know, you lose Brian Gionta, who scored a conistent 20. [Note from John to Montreal fans, you want to read that last sentence again.] Obviously, he had 48 one year. But we're in a position that we're going to need the goals. We're going to have our top guys doing what they do and I just want to get back to being a consistent player and contribute. I think to have more goals is going to help and that's what I'm going to be shooting for."

Well, he's absolutely right that Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner is the top line; and I doubt Rolston will appear there unless Langenbrunner has an awful time or if he's hurt.  And it's good that he's emphasizing his desire to contribute.

Now, this is not the first time Rolston has made a statement about his role to the media.  In a way, it's heartening to see that Rolston is confident about having a comeback season under Lemaire. It's good to hear that he's shooting for 30 goals.  That would be an excellent contribution to the team, I agree with him on that 100%.   It's a big expectation for him, but he's not alone with said expectation.  I am expecting a big season from Rolston.  Carlos Figueiredo of Speaking of the Devils, as part of the roundtable I commented on yesterday, thinks Rolston will have a big season.  You may be expecting the same (or not).  Devils previews nearly across the board expected much out of Rolston last season.  So it's good to see Rolston publicly state that he is expecting and wanting to make an impact like others have been and/or currently hope he is capable of performing.

However, we must be perfectly frank: More than ever, Brian Rolston needs to back up these words.  Another 15 goal season will not cut it. 

Third, Chere and Gulitti gets David Clarkson's take on the recent NHLPA (the player's union) firing their executive director Paul Kelly on Monday.  Chere cuts to the point with Clarkson and Shanahan's take.

"Guys have different opinions. I like Paul Kelly," Clarkson said. "Did it happen quickly? Yeah. Sometimes things need to be done."

Gulitti has more detailed quotes from Clarkson and Brendan Shanahan, who is very skeptical of how it all it went down.  

"It followed the constitution, but I think the timing makes me nervous and the timing makes a little suspicious when we're only 10 days away from having access to all 700 players. Why did this have to be done in such a hurried fashion? We made that mistake a few years ago, hurrying it through with (Bob) Goodenow and (Ted) Saskin and I thought we learned from that mistake. In the end, it might be the right decision, but I still don't like the way it was done and I'm still waiting for some answers.

"I'm more concerned about how it was done and I'm still waiting for details of why. A meeting happened in Chicago that no one knew was happening. At 3:30, 4 in the morning, this guy who has been on the job for a year and a half was canned that we spent a lot of money finding this guy. So, I guess it's wait and see. That being said, guys like David Clarkson, they're good people. They're good young men and they want to do what's best, but I don't know why somebody wasn't there with a little more experience to say, 'let's take a step back and wait until we can talk to players in training camp,' or at the very least, 'This is a very big decision guys. Let's go home. Let's call it a night and make a decision in the morning."

I don't blame Shanahan at all!  Kelly was fired at 4 in the morning on Monday!   James Mirtle brought up the potential overall effect, noting that the union could very well be fighting within itself and now end up with an even weaker position yesterday.  Damien Cox of the Toronto Star is livid over what happened, calling the Kelly's sacking "undeserved."  Most disturbingly, Jonathan Willis of the Copper and the Blue has connected some dots and has a possible insight into why Kelly was fired so suddenly and unceremoniously.  If he's right, firing Kelly doesn't just stink - it's just plain foul.  In a way, for the union's sake, I hope there's more to it than just that.

Let's make this clear.  Clarkson is right to keep the vote private and it's reassuring that he tried to reach out to the players.  That's fair.  Maybe Clarkson did the right thing.  After all, I'm not in the union.  I don't deal with Kelly.  I don't know the whole story. I'm not looking to blame Clarkson for doing anything wrong.

However, from my outside perspective, if this was a move to protect Ian Penny and Eric Lindros as Willis is suggesting, then I don't see how this was smart.  In the long term, I do hope the Devils players - and the NHL players - realize that don't take a hardline stance in 2012 and cause yet another work stoppage.   That would go a much longer way to killing hockey in North America than critics whining about the neutral zone trap.

This is a lot to take in, and I'm glad for it.  Hockey is coming back in full effect - September 9 is only a week away.  Big thanks to Gulitti and Chere for continuing to lead the world in Devils coverage.    Do you think those who arrived at the pre-training camp skate helped their chances for making the team or is it ultimately inconsequential?  Do you believe Rolston's quotes and have faith he can hit that 30 goal mark?  Do you have any take on the NHLPA situation?  Have your say on all of this news in the comments.