Head coach John MacLean spoke to the media after Wednesday's practice and discussed his roster, special teams, and what makes Travis Zajac
the right center for the Devils' top line with Zach Parise
and Ilya Kovalchuk
What are the challenges if you go into the season with 11 forwards?
MacLean: I don’t think there’s many challenges. I think we have a lot of good forwards. As I’ve said before, we have a lot of forwards who love to play, so I’m sure a lot of guys will be chomping at the bit to get that extra ice time if that’s the way we go. If it’s 11 forwards, will you mostly roll three lines, or will you try to double-shift for a fourth line?
We have the forwards that if we need to double-shift somebody, there’s lots of guys that want that opportunity. A lot of that is going to be by the feel of a game to see how it goes. Sometimes with penalties, power plays, you’re going to have to see how that shakes out. You’re not just going to say automatically, you’re going to go three or automatically you’re going to go four. I’ll get the feel of the game as we go along.Who will be your alternates and captain?
There’s no change. We still have Jamie (Langenbrunner), Zach and Patty (Elias).Ilya Kovalchuk has seen less time on the point on the power play...
But the puck’s been in his hands a lot. He’s been seeing a lot of quarterback time as far as the half-wall. I think he looks good there. I think our power play, we keep working on it. If we can get that going good early, I think that’ll be helpful for us. Have you de-emphasized the point shot as being 95 percent of the power play?
Not at all. We have a couple of guys back there. If Matt Taormina
’s there, he can shoot it from there. Brian Rolston’s been shooting it well. Jason (Arnott) can shoot it from the off-side. Whether it’s (Andy) Greenie or whether it’s Jamie or whether I decide to go five forwards. A lot of your power play still has to come from the shot and making good decisions; the guy with the puck making good decisions to distribute it. Ilya played the full two minutes on the power play a lot last year. Will we see that this year?
Maybe at times, but we have two pretty good units going right now. Competition’s good for both units to try and get out there. They’ll get their opportunities, and when they’re out there, they’re going to have to work to make the most of it. We have some good forwards on this team, so we have to make sure we get everybody playing. It’s a long season and we’re going to need everybody.A lot of times the first power play unit goes 90 seconds…
It depends on who’s going to be the first one at that given time in the game. They could be. If they’re going 90 seconds, chances are they’re in the zone, so that’s fine. If that happens, then the other unit will have to wait its turn to get their opportunity to go 90 seconds, or hopefully shorter and score a goal. Both of them will get opportunities to try and get us a goal.What makes Travis the best center to play between those two guys (Parise and Kovalchuk)?
I think Trav is a very smart hockey player. He’s intelligent, he knows how to play in his end, the offensive end, positionally he’s very sound. Good passer. I think he has a nice personality for it.
Travis is a worker. He’s one of those guys, he’s quietly confident in himself that he doesn’t need the adulation that maybe his wingers may get more than him. We appreciate how he plays and how he works and maybe his wingers may get a little more press than he does, but I think he’s very comfortable with that. We know how good a player Travis is and how valuable he is to us, also. Have you decided what units you want to use on the PK or is that flexible?
I think that’s kind of flexible. We have some guys there, some different guys. Jamie’s always been a good penalty killer, Travis is a good penalty killer. Zach, Patrik… sometimes you just have to go through the game and see how the ice time’s going, and who’s fresh at that given time. I’m confident. We have good penalty killers and we’ll be fine in that area.Have you settled on (Henrik) Tallinder with Greene? Why is that the best fit?
Probably right now, that’s what we’re looking at. They’re both puck-moving, I think they both read off each other well… right now that looks like the best combination for us.