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A Quick Look at Preseason Face-off Stats for Potential 3rd and 4th Line Centers

With the Devils preseason over, GM Lou Lamoriello and the coaching staff have some decisions to make before opening night. There's that little salary cap situation that Lou and Co. must solve by Wednesday afternoon. There's final cuts, and finally getting the depth chart together. In the ILWT 2010-2011 Devils Season Preview, I mentioned the depth at center being a weakness. Travis Zajac and Jason Arnott are stoned in the top two center spots, and the Devils are packed with enough wingers. It's only a matter of who will be skating to their left and right respectively. So one question mark that remains is the center position for the bottom tier on the depth chart.

It's seems rookie Jacob Josefson and veteran try-out Adam Mair are the front runners for the positions. Well, a big part of being a center is taking face-offs. How have these two done this preseason? Who have they faced? What zone were they in? Here's a quick look at the face-offs numbers this preseason after the jump.

Interestingly enough, these two aren't obviously the only options to play center. Dainius Zubrus, Rod Pelley, and Tim Sestito all played center last season and this preseason. Sestito was cleared waivers and was sent to Albany (see the bottom of the article). Pelley and Zubrus, like Josefson and Mair, are on the current 28-man roster. Zubrus may be the byproduct of the Devils salary cap solution. Rod Pelley has been used as a winger and center during training camp; as evidence here and here. This only leaves Josefson and Mair.

I've amalgamated the face-off charts for each of the Devils games where Josefson and/or Mair played in. Here's each game's chart: Game 1; Game 2; Game 4; Game 5; Game 6. Here is Josefson's followed by Mair's Split Game charts:



Josefson and Mair averaged 39% and 41% at the dot respectively. Josefson lost two more face-offs than Mair. Both were absolutely horrendous in the offensive zone, going a combined 4 for 20. Josefson was good in his first game at 54%. Mair was good in the defensive zone, which is a good trait to have. In the neutral zone, both were respectful in the mid-40% range. These two players would be playing on the 3rd and 4th lines. Are these good rates for a checking line? If They would be going against one of the top lines on the opposing teams, would these numbers be any different?

Here is the chart for each player Josefson faced off against. Here is Mair's.Josefson was notably good against Danny Briere (60%), Ben Holmstrom (50%), and Krystofer Kolanos (60%). He wasn't against Mike Richards (40%), Claude Giroux (33%), and Dean McAmmond (25%). Mair was 67% against Jeff Carter and Brian Boyle, and 50% against McAmmond and Briere. On the contrary, he was 0% against Erik Christensen and Brandon Dubinsky, and 38% against Giroux.There are some notable centers on the top lines where Josefson and Mair had positive numbers, yet most of the time both were below average against an opposing player.

Even if the Devils wanted to fix this dilemma, they are limited to the moves they can make (If they even want Adam Mair, they still need to sign him). They are sort of stuck with what they have. If this a large cause for concern for you? If so, is there any solution? It seems a trade is imminent. Perhaps the Devils could acquire a center with a good history at the face-off dot. Tell us what you think in comments. Thanks for reading.