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Lemaire addresses power outage

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Kovalchuk and Parise looking to spark Devs' PP.
Jacques Lemaire opened Tuesday’s practice by having a talk with his players on the ice.

The Devils have dropped two straight and four of their last five following a 3-2 loss at Philadelphia on Monday. With three games to go before the two-week Olympic break, Jersey’s Team hopes to break out of the recent slump that has seen them go 4-9-1 in their last 14 contests.

“Just about our game, what we have to do, what we have to improve, what we have to look for,” Lemaire said.

Part of the practice was used to work on the power play, which went one-for-seven against the Flyers and has produced four goals in its last 48 chances.

“You need five guys to be on the same page,” Lemaire said. “For every power play that works well, that’s what we have. I know we have the right people on the power play. Now it’s a matter of being effective.”

The head coach is looking for consistency. The team gave up three goals to the Rangers in under three minutes of Saturday’s 3-1 loss. They allowed two Flyers goals in the final two minutes of the second period on Monday.

“Some of us that were not playing our best hockey were not consistent,” he said. “We’re having very good periods and average periods. We just better be more consistent.”

Jamie Langenbrunner thinks it’s important for players to avoid trying to do too much individually.

“It’s not the way it’s supposed to be going or how we’re supposed to be playing, but just like when things are going so well you can’t think you’re so great, when things are going bad, you can’t think that way either,” the captain said. “You have to try and keep at an even keel here. It’s easier said than done for all of us. We’re all perfectionists in a way. We want to be winning every night and doing things well. Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy by pushing too hard instead of staying within yourself.”

The Devils host Philadelphia on Wednesday for the second game of the home-and-home. They expect to do a better job of winning possession battles against the Flyers’ aggressive penalty kill.

Zach Parise’s 26th of the season was the Devils’ lone power-play goal versus the Flyers.

“We had good puck control (Monday) but we didn’t have good chances,” Parise said. “That’s what we have to do. I guess sometimes that comes down to getting shots through, getting a guy in front and getting some rebounds. We worked a little bit on retrieving the puck because (the Flyers) pressure a lot.”

Parise’s goal was a pass intended for Ilya Kovalchuk, who was stationed at the top of the left circle. The puck deflected of Chris Pronger’s skate and into the net.

Kovalchuk, acquired last Thursday from Atlanta, has been putting plenty of rubber on opposing goaltenders since arriving in New Jersey. It’s only a matter of time before No. 17 breaks through for his first goal as a Devil. The Russian sharpshooter recorded nine shots Monday, giving him 17 in his last two games.

“We want to win those battles in the corner for the loose pucks,” Kovalchuk said. “I think that’s a key to being successful on the power play: stay on top of their guys. As soon as they get tired, that’s when they’re going to make mistakes. We have to take advantage of it.”

He added: “Sometimes we overplayed some chances. We don’t need to give too many passes. We just need to be a little simpler: shoot more pucks to the goalies and get the rebounds.”

With just three games under his belt as a Devil, Kovalchuk is still getting acclimated to new teammates and a new system. The two-time 50-goal scorer said the Devils’ attack features too much talent to be kept off the board for long.
“On the power play you have to create your own all the time,” he said. “Yeah, you have to stick to some system, but most of the time you have to show your creativity and try to make plays. We’ve got so many great players on the power play, skilled guys, hard-working guys, I think we’re going to turn it around. Last game, we had a lot of opportunities, but we got only one goal. We have to be better.”

The Devils host Nashville on Friday, then visit Carolina on Saturday for their final game before the Olympics.

• Anssi Salmela did not skate Tuesday after sustaining a hard hit from Jeff Carter that left him face down and motionless in Monday’s game. Salmela had just scored shorthanded for his first goal as a Devil. Upon further review, Lemaire did not feel the hit was questionable.

“I didn’t have that feeling at the start,” the coach said. “The League looks at every incident. If there’s anything, they’ll take care of it. Yesterday when I looked at it, and the referee Paul (Devorski) talked to me, he said it’s a fair check, he didn’t have the elbow. At the start we thought there was an elbow; it was definitely not an elbow.”

• Last week, when Lemaire was asked about which parts of Kovalchuk’s game might have to change, the coach said he would have to “stop” in the defensive zone. During Saturday’s game at Madison Square Garden, the ZZ Pops line of Parise-Travis Zajac-Jamie Langenbrunner had a shift against the Rangers’ Olli Jokinen line midway through the third period that seemed to demonstrate what Lemaire meant.

While Jokinen cycled with Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, the Devils’ forwards held their position and kept their sticks in passing lanes. The puck was eventually cleared out of the zone.

“There’s a time and a place to be aggressive,” Parise said Tuesday. “I thought on that shift in particular there’s no need for us to run around or run out of position. When you get a line that cycles well, there’s a couple of ways that you can defend it. You can go in, hit a guy, pin him and grab the puck, but in that situation, we were at the end of our shift. We all just stood in position and took away passing lanes. If they want to cycle the puck up the boards, we’ll give them that, as long as we’re not getting beat back to the net or giving up one-timers. We were in good position.”
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