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The week began Tuesday with news that Zach Parise was moving to center. The point of the move was to put Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk into the same line. The motive behind this move was simply that Kovalchuk wasn’t being setup in a position where he can score. This wasn’t the only change, they reunited Zubrus with Elias, a combination that has worked well in the past. They also paired Larsson with Tallinder to form the Devils top defensive line.
The Kings came into this game having won four straight. New Jersey was going off a loss to the Penguins, a game in which they were noticeably flat. Playing the first game with the new lines, the Devils played aggressive offensive hockey. This was the Devils’ best game to date.
They were exposed at the back a couple of times but generally, they created the best offensive chances. Zubrus opened the scoring in the second period when he charged the net and had it hit off something, then off goaltender Bernier, and then into the back of the net. The second goal came two minutes later when Zubrus forced a Kopitar turnover that was followed by quick passes by Greene and Sykora to a wide open Patrik Elias who buried a one-timer. Zubrus finished the scoring with a wrist-shot shortside on a two-on-one later in the second as well. The Elias-Zubrus-Sykora line got all three goals but that doesn’t tell the whole story, every line played well.
Johan Hedberg recorded his first shutout of the season. Two saves in particular stood out for me. Both times he stuffed Kopitar with his pad when it seemed Kopitar had an empty net to shoot at. Kovalchuk had four shots after only having one in his last two games, so the lines seem to be working.
Confidence was riding high after their demolition of the Kings Tuesday night. The Devils were leading 2-1 on a wraparound from by Zach Parise and a slap-shot from Fayne but after the half-way point of the second period it was all Coyotes. The Coyotes scored four straight, a lot of which were short side high. They obviously found a weak spot in Hedberg’s net because they kept going to the same spot with success. Palmieri scored his first of the season with eight seconds to play to make it 5-3 loss for the Devils.
The Devils didn’t play well enough to win. They had no answer all night for the Vrbata-Hanzal-Whiteney line. They exposed the weakness of the Devils, they don’t have a shutdown power line like they’ve had in the past.
The Devils made another line change for this game. They promoted Clarkson to the top line and moving Palmieri to the third line. The Devils dominated the majority of the game. They were not finishing their chances and Lehtonen showed by he is one of the hottest goaltenders in the league right now. He made great save after great save.
Loui Eriksson opened the scoring in the first with a wrister following some fine passing by the Stars. The Devils had to beating themselves up for trailing at the point. They continued their offensive onslaught, creating more chances. Kovalchuk over skated a wide open net in the crease but in his defense he could not have expected the puck to bounce so nicely for him. The Devils finally scored when Elias won the faceoff and Petr Sykora scored his first of the season off the faceoff. The Devils continued to force the issue and once again on the front foot. They certainly looked like the team most likely to score when out of nowhere Vernon Fiddler from behind the Devils net threw one off Mark Fayne’s skates and between Hedberg for the most unlikely of goals. Souray added a rocket into an empty Devils net.
In the three games, Greene recorded two assists and played to a +5. He displayed once again why he’s the Devils best offensive defenseman.
The Moose has really played well, regardless of the seven goals he allowed this week. He is moving very well.
He had a goal and two assists but that doesn’t tell the entire story. He is consistently the Devils best offensive player.