AP Sports Writer
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- There's little mystery why the New Jersey Devils missed the playoffs a year after facing the Los Angeles Kings for the Stanley Cup.
Key injuries to Marty Brodeur and Ilya Kovalchuk led to major slumps in the lockout-shortened 48-game season.
The players who needed to step up with the stars out didn't. The team played poorly in overtime, and the penalty kill slipped from the best in the league to 20th overall.
So despite an Eastern Conference-best 8-1-3 start, the Devils will watch the playoffs on television.
Being a couple of wins away from a fourth championship in franchise history 10 months ago meant nothing Monday. Players stuffed their gear into travel bags, shook hands and said goodbye.
Changes will be made, but coach Pete DeBoer will stay, according to president and general manager Lou Lamoriello.
This is the second time in three seasons New Jersey has missed the playoffs. The recent slip follows a run of 13 straight postseason appearances.
"I think we could have been in it this year," Lamoriello said. "Unfortunately we are not. We didn't get it done. You never look for excuses but could this team have been playing? Absolutely."
Lamoriello, who lost offensive catalyst Zach Parise to free agency after last season, faces far more decisions this season.
Forwards Patrik Elias, David Clarkson, Steve Sullivan, Dainius Zubrus, Alexei Ponikarovsky and defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Peter Harrold are all unrestricted free agents. Elias led the team in scoring with 14 goals and 22 assists and Clarkson had a team-high 15 goals, although only six came in the final 36 games.
"There is always turnover and there are always things that happen," said Devils captain Bryce Salvador, who missed the final 2
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