Devils’ coach John MacLean needed to make a change to his team’s anemic offense.
With injuries and ineffective play damning the Devils early this season, MacLean made two major changes to breath life into his stagnant offense. Travis Zajac, who centered the first line for the entire season, shifted down to the third line to center Brian Rolston and David Clarkson. Dainius Zubrus, who’s worked his way around the entire lineup, moved to Zajac’s spot, centering Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Vasyunov.
MacLean said the move provided a different look and, hopefully, an offensive spark.
“Just trying a different look,” MacLean said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “We need to get something going there. I think Zubie going with Kovy and Vas it might be a nice little kick start for them. And Trav with Rollie and Clarkie, we get some energy also.”
Zajac feels his game meshes well with his new linemates.
“They’re two good players,” Zajac said to Gulitti. “They’re going to get in on the forecheck. They’re going to make plays and it’s just a little bit of a new look for me playing with those guys. I think they’re more similar to the way I play—up and down. We’re just looking for a little something else to get other lines going.”
Kovalchuk believed Zubrus brings a physical presence to the top line.
“He’s a real hard-working guy and he creates that room for his linemates,” the Devils left-winger said. “He’s dangerous in front of the net, so it will be good.”
The move follows a 3-0 shutout loss to the Boston Bruins, the third time in last six games the Devils were held scoreless. Tim Thomas played well, making 27 saves for his fourth shutout. Michael Ryder’s 5-on-3 powerplay tally in the first period was the difference, putting the Bruins ahead, 1-0, after one period. Nathan Horton and Blake Wheeler scored insurance goals in the win.
The Bruins game highlighted the Devils season-long struggles on offense. When given the opportunity, the Devils scorers couldn’t find a way to put home the puck. The golden opportunity came in the first minute of play, when Patrik Elias and Mattias Tedenby came into the zone on a 2-on-1. Elias held the puck as he cut across the slot, drawing Thomas out of the net. The Devils left-winger tried to put a shot low, but Thomas blocked the puck away. Tedenby picked up the rebound and had an open net to shoot into. Thomas, however, spun around and made a desperation save with the back of his knee to keep the game scoreless.
The game tonight features two scuffling teams looking to establish consistency. The Maple Leafs came out of the gates blazing hot, but have won only twice in their past seven games. The Devils are off to one of the worst starts in team history and have yet to win back-to-back games this season.
Elias believes improving the offense starts with the quality of play.
“To stay in a game, you have to score goals obviously and we’re not doing that for whatever reasons,” the left-winger said to Gulitti. “We need to be a little more patient with the puck and patience doesn’t mean to hold onto the puck. You have to make the right plays.”
If the Devils can play smarter and enjoy the game, Elias believes they’ll find success.
“As hard as it is, you have to try to enjoy (playing) because that’s how you play your best hockey,” he said. “Just believe in each other and play for each other. But you still have to be able to make the plays. It’s not one guy It’s all of us.”