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DeBoer shuffles lines to spark offense

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Peter DeBoer tinkered some more with his lines at Monday's practice hoping to find offensive balance over the final six games of the regular season.

Travis Zajac, who returned Sunday after missing 37 games with Achilles tendon soreness, centered Adam Henrique and Ilya Kovalchuk. Zach Parise remained with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus. The third and fourth lines were Alexei Ponikarovsky-Jacob Josefson-David Clarkson and Petr Sykora-Ryan Carter-Steve Bernier. 

The Devils (42-28-6) have scored 10 goals in their last seven games (2-4-1).

"I just think I've got to get comfortable over these last six games heading into the playoffs with four lines that I feel I can trust, and also that can create some offense," DeBoer said. "That's the goal. It's a tough time of year. We're going to move guys around until we get that."

Zajac had an assist and won 10 of 16 faceoffs in Sunday's 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh. He looked sharp skating with Ponikarovsky and Kovalchuk, and nearly netted a goal of his own on a rebound opportunity.

"It felt better as the game went on, obviously," Zajac said Monday. "For me, it's just about trying to get better every game."

Zajac has a goal and three assists in nine games this season, and said he still has things he hopes to work on with the playoffs approaching.

"There's plenty," he said. "You can always improve. Obviously, I still have a ways to go. For me right now, it's just about trying to be in the right positions, not overextend myself and do too much."

To DeBoer, Zajac made a noticeable impact in his first game since Jan. 2.

"It was great to have him back," DeBoer said. "It's a great luxury to add a top six forward this time of year, and a guy that's so versatile and can do so many things. He was great in the faceoff circle, he can kill penalties, he can help on the power play, he's responsible. The best players on our team enjoy playing with him, so he's an easy guy to play with. It's a great addition."

DeBoer spoke Monday about eliminating some of the mistakes that cost the Devils against the Penguins. That attention to detail will be vital heading into Tuesday's home meeting with Chicago.

"Similar teams," the coach said. "You've got [Patrick] Sharp and [Patrick] Kane and those type of guys. They play a similar game to the [Evgeni] Malkins and [Sidney] Crosbys. Hopefully, lesson learned and we can tighten it up."

Anton Volchenkov (lower body) did not practice and remains day-to-day. "He's feeling better, but not ready to skate yet," DeBoer said. Defenseman Peter Harrold was recalled from Albany (AHL).

David Wohlberg, New Jersey’s seventh choice (sixth round), 172nd overall in the 2008 Entry Draft, was headed to Albany where he was set to sign an amateur tryout contract and be added to the Albany (AHL) roster. Wohlberg played four seasons with the University of Michigan (CCHA).

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