The dynamic Kovalchuk, who came to the Devils from Atlanta last February and who has averaged more than 42 goals a year in his career, joins sniper Zach Parise, underrated center Travis Zajac and crafty winger Patrik Elias to give the Devils the most dangerous offense in team history. But will Kovalchuk, who has played just nine postseason games (five last season), make the difference when it matters in the spring? Even with Hall of Fame--bound goalie Martin Brodeur, New Jersey is 16--26 in the playoffs since winning the Cup in 2003.
New coach John MacLean will open up the offense, putting pressure on the Devils' no-frills defense to protect the 38-year-old Brodeur—hardly a guarantee of success in the tight-checking playoffs. New Jersey seems more than capable of reaching the postseason, but the club won't find out until April or May whether the Kovalchuk deal has truly paid off.
John Tortorella (3rd season)
38-33-11 (9th in East)