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MacLean scrambles lines for D.C. trip

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Tim Sestito

Seeking any spark that might give the Devils something to build upon, John MacLean mixed and matched his line combos at Monday’s practice.

The biggest surprise? Albany call-up Tim Sestito centering Ilya Kovalchuk and Mattias Tedenby.

Sestito, 26, plays a two-way game. On Dec. 14, he was recalled from the AHL for the second time this season.

“It’s not exactly like we’ve been lighting the world on fire,” Sestito said. “I think Mac’s just trying to find something that’s going to work. We haven’t been scoring a ton of goals lately. I think he’s trying to get all four lines (going). Kovy’s going to put points up, hopefully we can contribute and get a win.”

The Devils have dropped seven of their last eight and visit Washington on Tuesday. Martin Brodeur will make his sixth straight start.

Kovalchuk has been one of the hottest Devils, and will ride a five-game points streak into his meeting with fellow Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin. He has three goals, four assists on his current surge, and had the Devils’ lone goal in Saturday’s 7-1 loss in Atlanta.

Kovalchuk took Monday’s changes in stride.

“When you play those kinds of games like we played last game, it always happens,” Kovalchuk said. “Coaches they try to find something that’s going to work and we’ll see (Tuesday).”

MacLean doesn't expect Sestito to change his game. He believes Sestito’s two-way style can help stabilize a trio with two offensive-minded wingers.

Monday’s lines:
Elias-Zajac-Langenbrunner Kovalchuk-Sestito-Tedenby
“Timmy is a good hard-working centerman that skates well and I think he can play good defense,” MacLean said. “I think he may allow them a little creativity. He’s going to come to work. I’m not trying to make Timmy any different a player than he is. I know he’ll come to work and play and do what’s asked.”

Sestito’s looking to create opportunities for his linemates.

“I think I need to go in to those dirty areas and get those guys the puck,” he said. “These are maybe two of the fastest guys in the League. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to beat them in races, but I can keep up with them. Maybe that plays into a part of it. I’m just going to get the puck, play hard in our end, get it out of our end quickly so we spend more time in the ‘O’ zone.”

The Capitals will be coming off Sunday’s 3-2 win in Ottawa that snapped an eight-game losing skid. MacLean’s squad thumped the Caps 5-0 at the Rock on Nov. 22, payback for the 7-2 loss suffered at Verizon Center on Oct. 9.

The coach hopes they can rekindle some of the mojo from that November meeting. Saturday’s setback in Atlanta extended the Devils’ road losing skid to eight games, third longest in club history.

“You hope that you would remember that but also, hopefully that will jog some memories as far as how you have to play to beat them,” said the head coach. “We’ve had trouble replicating things here so far. We’re going to have to be ready to compete, win battles, make a commitment, sacrifice for one another. All simple things.”

Jason Arnott, who has scored a team-leading nine goals, believes that November game is a positive heading into their third encounter.

“If they would have come in and beat us again like they did in their rink, we’d be really feeling the pressure tomorrow,” he said. “Not that we’re not, but I guess if you’re looking at a positive that would be it for (Tuesday).”

MacLean was asked how he was holding up after the defeat by the Thrashers. The Devils (9-21-2) have been outscored 10-2 in back-to-back losses.

“I went to watch my two boys play hockey yesterday, they played very well, so I have to live my life, also,” he said. “Does it bother me? Sure it does. But it’s part of the business, and I will be fine.”

He called Saturday’s game “an embarrassing loss for the team, for the organization,” but spoke strongly of keeping his nose to the grindstone.

“Every day that I’m coming to work, I’m going to try whatever I can do to try and get this thing turned around,” he said. “I won’t shy away from anything and I’ll be ready to work every day.”

-- Leading scorer Patrik Elias has eight points (3g-5a) in the last eight games.

-- Defenseman Matt Corrente was recalled from Albany (AHL) and took part in Monday’s practice.

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