Devils experiment with line combos
Terry Koshan, QMI Agency
|Dainius Zubrus and Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils defend against the New York Rangers during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 14, 2012 in New York City. (Paul Bereswill/Getty Images/AFP)
NEW YORK - When in doubt, change it up.
With his team down 1-0 in the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer put together some different lines at the morning skate on Wednesday, most notably sticking Travis Zajac between captain Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk.
“We didn’t score a goal last game, so on offence, shuffling guys around has been something we’ve done all year,” DeBoer said. “I’m definitely not married to these combinations, and I’m not even sure we’re going to start with these combinations.”
DeBoer dropped Alexei Ponikarovsky to the third line and had Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus on the second line. Whether DeBoer stays with the line changes for Game 2 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden could be immaterial. If the Devils don’t get better results off the forecheck and more legitimate scoring chances on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, it won’t matter what the line combinations are.
DeBoer is expected to make another change, as defenceman Peter Harrold likely will return to the lineup, replacing rookie Adam Larsson.
The Rangers, 3-0 winners in Game 1 behind a 21-save shutout by Lundqvist, don’t want to change anything.
“I think we’re just going to continue working really hard and do all the small things really well,” Lundqvist said. “We look at this game as great opportunity to keep going. We did so many good things in the first game, and I think the best part about that game is we got better. In the third period, we played our best hockey.
“That’s good for our confidence. We have been playing a lot of hockey lately, and going into the third, we fed from the crowd and got more energy. A lot of times, that is when games get decided, in the third period.
“I just approach this game like any other game. I don’t think about the consequences of each game, whether you win or lose. Whole playoffs, I just think about things I can control and it helps my game.”
Meanwhile, there was a minor commotion after a story in the New York Post quoted Devils goalie Martin Brodeur as saying after Game 1 on Monday night that, regarding the Rangers’ willingness to block shots, “hopefully we’ll be able to hurt a few guys hitting one-timers off their foot and their head or something.”
Brodeur has stopped talking to reporters after morning skates, but Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello brushed the issue aside, telling reporters there no malicious intent behind the goalie’s comment.
And Rangers rookie forward Chris Kreider has a chance at moving into the Stanley Cup record books. Kreider has five points in the 2012 playoffs, and has not yet played in a regular-season game.
The NHL record for most points in the playoffs before playing in the regular season is six, held by George McPhee and Eddie Mazur.
Kreider has three goals and three assists since joining the Rangers from Boston College. The record for most goals in the playoffs prior to appearing in a regular-season game is four, set by Mazur.