Having gotten off to a 2-0 start, there isn't much Pete DeBoer wants to change about the way his Devils are playing.
Still, there's always an improvement to be made. So DeBoer switched his top two left wings at Thursday's practice, moving Mattias Tedenby to the first line with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk, and shifting Dainius Zubrus to the second line with Patrik Elias and David Clarkson.
Krys Barch also replaced Cam Janssen on the fourth line, but DeBoer wasn't committed to keeping those tweaks for Friday's home matchup with Washington.
“We’re going to have a lineup meeting (Thursday) afternoon and talk about any potential changes,” DeBoer said. “We’ve won two in a row so any changes you make you’re not going to make lightly.”
How would the changes impact the top two lines?
“We lose about six inches on the left wing,” Zajac joked. (Zubrus measures 6-5, while Tedenby comes in at 5-9.) “They’re different players. Zubie brings a lot of size, he’s tough to play against, he’s great at protecting pucks, and he’s a smart player. With Teddy, you get a lot of that creativity, the skills. He’s dangerous with the puck at all times.”
Tedenby, the Devils' first-round pick in 2008, had been heating up in Albany (AHL) before NHL training camps opened, scoring nine goals and eight assists in 30 games with the Devils’ top affiliate.
"I guess what I'm looking for is consistency in his game,” DeBoer said. “His effort's always there. You never get B level effort out of him, but you’re looking for that consistency at both ends of the rink where a coach trusts putting you on the ice on a regular basis.”
Former Devils assistant coach Adam Oates will be making his first return to Newark since being named Capitals head coach in June. Oates, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame with the Class of 2012, specialized in power-play strategy during his two seasons on the Devils coaching staff.
“We’ll know how to kill (penalties) against them, that’s the good thing,” Zajac said. “Obviously he’s a great coach. I’m looking forward to playing against him and hopefully we have some success against him.”
DeBoer expects some familiar looks from the Capitals.
"I got a great deal of stuff from Oatesy last year, too," said the head coach. "How we play is a combination of all the coaches we had here last year. We tweaked things throughout the year based on different opinions, whether it was (former assistant coach) Larry (Robinson), Oatesy or (current assistant coach) Dave Barr. What we ended up with worked, so I anticipate that we'll see a lot of similar things."
Always up for a challenge, Kovalchuk is eager to take on Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. Kovalchuk is off to a quick start with three points in two games, including his successful shorthanded penalty shot against Philadelphia on Tuesday.
“It’s always good to play against the best,” he said. “They’re struggling a little bit right now. They’ll be desperate, so it’s fun. Oatesy’s going to be on the bench for them; he was here last year. It’ll be an exciting game.”
Though this is the first time they'll meet this season in the NHL, Kovalchuk’s SKA St. Petersburg faced Ovechkin’s Moscow Dynamo once during their lockout stints in the KHL.