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Rolston gets look on line with Kovy, Zajac

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Rolston looking to come through on offense for Devils.
The Devils have scored once in their last two games, and have gone six outings without connecting on the power play. Jacques Lemaire is hoping to change his team’s fortunes on offense, and was set to try Brian Rolston on the right side of Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac against Columbus on Tuesday.

Lemaire coached Rolston in Minnesota, where he posted three straight seasons with 30-or-more goals. Besides getting the team’s offense flowing once again, Lemaire would also like to get Rolston reignited over the final 11 games of the regular season.

“There’s all kinds of messages in that move,” Lemaire said. “That’s where he should play, so we give him a chance to play there and then we’ll see. It’s up to him to take advantage of it and do the best he can.”

Rolston has 18 goals and 14 assists this season, but has been held off the scoresheet in his last five appearances.

“I don’t really have a ton of say about it,” Rolston said about the move. “I thought our line was playing well together, and I think (Lemaire's) just trying to find ways of getting some offense. We haven’t been scoring much lately, maybe he’s just switching things around a little bit. Maybe that’ll make that other line click, and maybe this line will click as well. I think that’s what’s important.”

Rolston skated the right side with Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias at center in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to St. Louis. He recorded four shots in the game and didn't feel the change was about helping his confidence. He had previously been on a trio with Rob Niedermayer and David Clarkson.

“I felt our line was playing well with Nieder and Clarky, so it’s not a matter of getting a confidence boost from that,” he said. “I just want to play consistent and start producing a little more.”

Rolston is second to Zach Parise (301) with 210 shots on the season. His big slapshot combined with Kovalchuk’s playmaking could prove to be a lethal combo. Kovalchuk has 248 shots this season, including 69 in 16 games with New Jersey.

“Kovy sees everybody on the ice,” said Lemaire. “When you don’t expect the puck, he’s going to send it to you because you’re open. You could be close, you could be far, but he sees you.”

Zajac agreed.

“He’s a great passer,” Zajac said. “I didn’t know that until he came here, actually. Just watching him in practice, watching him in games, he can find seams through guys' sticks and skates. He makes plays that I wouldn’t, and you have to expect the puck from him because sometimes it’s a tough pass, but he somehow finds ways to make it.”

Zajac’s role at center will be setting up two of the most feared shooters in the Devils’ lineup.

“They’re both players that are good with the puck, have great vision,” he said. “I think it’s my job on the line to try and get them the puck and make sure they get some quality opportunities.”

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