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Line change moves Loktionov up to top trio

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Peter DeBoer's quest for more offense continued Tuesday at AmeriHealth Pavilion.

The head coach tweaked the lineup he used in Monday's overtime loss to Colorado, flipping his top two centers at practice. Andrei Loktionov moved between Dainius Zubrus and Jaromir Jagr, and Travis Zajac slid down to the second line between Patrik Elias and Damien Brunner.

The Devils have points in three straight games (1-0-2) with two remaining before the two-week Olympic break. Though they hit three goal posts on Monday, close wasn't close enough to nail down the second point.

"We haven't had more than one 5-on-5 goal in the last four games and it's not enough for us to win," DeBoer said. "It's nice to talk about chances and opportunities and zone time and shots, but it's about production right now. We're going to move some things around and hopefully get some."

Jagr leads the Devils with 48 points (17g-31a) and Zajac is third with 29 (9g-20a). They've spent much of the season together, mainly with Zubrus at left wing. Loktionov, who has made back-to-back appearances since being a healthy scratch for six games, got a look between Zubrus and Jagr for a handful of contests in early November that included a 5-0 victory over Nashville on Nov. 10.

The Devils (23-21-13) have been held under three goals 15 times in their last 20 games. Change was needed, but didn't come easy.

"Yeah, I was a little reluctant," DeBoer said. "I know Jags likes consistent linemates. Some guys prefer that, some guys don't mind change. I know he's said before that he likes to play with the same guys at the same time. That only works if you're getting consistent production, and we haven't gotten enough recently."

DeBoer can put his new lines to the test on Friday, when the Devils host the Edmonton Oilers at Prudential Center.

"It's all about production right now," he said. "I think what people have to realize and players have to realize is, coaches would love to come into the season and keep four lines together all year and never make a change. That would be perfect. The reality of the situation is, you go with combinations you think have some chemistry, you try and give them a chance to get through some tough times and come out the other side and work through it.

"At some point you have to cut your losses and move on to something else. That's the process we go through."

Anton Volchenkov did not practice Tuesday.

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