2012 NHL Playoffs: Will New Jersey's New Lines Save the Series against New York?
Petr Sykora will likely be a healthy scratch for Monday night's game as rookie center Jacob Josefson returns from injury. Josefson missed 41 games this season with two significant injuries, but posted a plus-10 rating when he was actually on the ice.
Here is a look at the projected lines, courtesy of The Star Ledger's Rich Chere:
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus
Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Alexei Ponikarovsky- Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Elias will play left wing for the first time this season after serving as the Devils' second-line center for most of the year. The veteran has played a majority of his career at the forward position, but changed to center due to the injury to Travis Zajac.
"I was asking guys, 'What am I doing?' in certain situations," Elias told Tom Gulitti. "I'm psyched. I'm excited."
While some people consider these changes as a panic move, DeBoer's strategy also leaves a lot of room for excitement. For one, Elias being paired with Henrique and Kovalchuk may open up his ability to make big plays and get out of his playoff slump.
Despite scoring three goals and two assists during the 2012 playoffs, Elias has not recorded a point since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers. He has posted a minus-3 rating in the first three games against the Rangers and has more penalty minutes then goals scored.
The Devils need their most consistent player to get back on track. In New Jersey's nine wins this postseason, Elias has scored two goals and a plus-6 rating. In the team's six losses, Elias has just one goal and a minus-3 rating.
Speed will also play an important role in how successful these lines are, a skill that the Devils have lacked for most of the postseason. The combination of aging veterans Elias, Zubrus and Sykora looked painfully slow in the first two rounds, and splitting them up to pair with fresh and younger legs may help open up their game.
The removal of Sykora from the lineup may seem sudden and rushed, but the longtime Devil has simply not performed at a high level since the playoffs began. He may have been a nice surprise during the regular season, but he has managed just four points since the opening round and has seen his ice time diminish over the last four games.
The only concerning question about this move is whether or not Jacob Josefson will be able to rebound from his injury so quickly. The young center turned it on toward the end of the season before he fractured his wrist, but he has missed a significant amount of time in what was considered to be his first "full" season.
"Fresh legs at this time of the year, you're 15 games into a playoff run, it can't hurt," DeBoer said.
DeBoer changed the lines at significant moments during the season, and the Devils were able to respond and win big games. There is no bigger of a game than Monday night against the Rangers, and the team can only hope that these new lines will pay off.
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