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Parise keen on quest for 40 goals

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Parise closing in on 40 goals, 80 points.
Zach Parise is within reach of his second straight 40-goal season, but says that won’t factor into whether or not he rests this weekend. The Devils close out the regular season with home games Saturday against the Islanders and Sunday versus the Sabres.

New Jersey (46-27-7) entered the weekend tied with Pittsburgh atop the Atlantic Divison.

“I wouldn’t jeopardize if I thought I needed rest for the playoffs for one extra goal,” Parise said after Saturday’s optional morning skate. “I don’t think it’s worth it. I think both tonight’s and tomorrow’s games are going to be important, so I’m not worried about it.”

Parise has 37 with two games to go, and could become the second Devil to record back-to-back 40-goal seasons. John MacLean (42, 41, 45) did it in three straight from 1988-89 to 1990-91. Parise notched a career-high 45 last season, coming three shy of matching Brian Gionta’s franchise record.

With 78 points, Parise is also gunning to become the first Devil to collect 80 in back-to-back seasons.

Parise would join Ilya Kovalchuk as the second Devil to reach 40 this season. Kovalchuk scored his 40th on April 2 against Chicago.

“It’s a big number,” Parise said. “It’d be a nice number to hit again. We’ll see. You never know. You just keep shooting the puck and see what happens. But it’s always a nice any time you can get a nice, round number like that.”

Lately, Parise has enjoyed chemistry with Dainius Zubrus. The two wingers skated together for all three games of New Jersey’s recent 2-1-0 road trip. Travis Zajac centered them for consecutive shutout wins at Carolina and Atlanta before Patrik Elias took over as their center in Thursday’s 3-2 loss in Florida.

Parise had two goals, two assists during the trip, while Zubrus recorded a goal and four assists.

“I think we’ve been playing really well together,” Parise said. “I think he does a good job in the corners, making space. When he’s moving his feet and he’s moving the puck quickly, that’s when he’s playing his best, and I think he’s been doing that for the last few games. I really like playing with him.”

Zubrus has been a versatile component for Jacques Lemaire’s club. One night he can anchor the fourth line, as he did against Boston on March 30. Another night, he can score off of a Parise pass, then set up a Parise goal, as he did against the Hurricanes on April 3.

“When Zubie’s on top of his game, he can play anywhere,” Lemaire said. “You can use him to check, you can use him on the top line. He can do a lot of things, that’s the beauty of it.”

That includes clicking with Parise, who this year became the first Devil to register four straight 30-goal seasons.

“I’m a big believer in chemistry,” Parise said. “I think certain guys play well with each other. It’s not always two of the most skilled guys but certain guys play well together, for whatever reason. You know certain things about different players: where they’re going to go [on the ice], sometimes to the point where you don’t even need to look, you just know where you’re going to be.”

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