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ZZ Pops together again

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Parise, Zajac and Langenbrunner were a force for the Devils in 2008-09.
It was a new look at this training camp, but it had a familiar feel.

After going the first four days of camp on separate lines, the trio of Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Jamie Langenbrunner was back together for Thursday's morning session at AmeriHealth Pavilion.

New line combinations could be a fact of life for the Devils over the next month and a half. The groin injury that will sideline Patrik Elias for the next three to six weeks will force head coach Jacques Lemaire to adjust to life without the franchise's all-time leading scorer, for now.

"You never know the way it's going to be, especially now with Patty out," Parise said. "Travis, Jamie and I do have great chemistry together. I guess we'll see what coach feels is the best route to take."

Brendan Shanahan was slotted into Langenbrunner's right wing spot in Wednesday's 3-2 preseason shootout win over the Rangers. Parise kept the Devils alive in the third round before Zajac clinched it in the sixth.

"We hoped we'd be together in the end, and we hope to continue where we left off last year," Zajac said. "We all had great years last year, and I think we just complement each other well and it's just easy to play alongside those two guys."

For Zajac, even the familiar took some getting used to after the time apart.

"It's the first time we were together, so we weren't that sharp," Zajac said. "You kind of just know where they're going to be on the ice, and it's easy just to put a puck somewhere and one of those guys is going to be there to get it."

Parise acknowledged that as well as they fit together, each is capable of functioning within multiple roles on the team.

"It always feels comfortable skating with those guys," Parise said. "All three of us feel comfortable skating with each other. But at the same time, it's not as if you can't skate with anyone else; it's not as if each individual can't skate with anyone else. We're not one-dimensional like that."

Andy Greene accidentally took out Parise in the corner while Parise drove toward the net during a drill. Parise got up slowly from the hit, but the two joked about it in the locker room afterward.

"I asked him, 'Did I get you?' And he said, 'No, I kind of just went in awkward,'" Greene said. "It just sounded and looked a lot worse than it was. Obviously you're not trying to hurt any guys on the team, especially Zach."

Greene said it wasn't a hit as much as a play in which he was "riding him into the boards."

"You're in that danger zone, two feet away, where you don't really want to push someone," he said.

Parise kidded with Greene about the incident from across the locker room.

"I'm used to that from that guy," Parise said of Greene. "He likes to cross-check guys and guys from behind in practice. That's why we call him 'practice tough guy' around here."

Dainius Zubrus chimed in about Greene from the next stall.

"He's a real good practice player," Zubrus said.

Later, Zajac was asked about the play.

"Andy's not too well-liked right now by our line," Zajac joked. "It's just battling hard; two guys competing."

What about the defense that Greene offered?

"It looked like a cross-check to the back of the head for me – but we're used to that from Greener in practice," Zajac said.

• Lemaire felt he might've scheduled Thursday's 11 a.m. practice too early for the players that had skated in Wednesday's preseason opener.

"Usually my practices are at one o'clock, so I give a little more time," Lemaire said. "I know the players they like earlier, that's the reason why I did it. I like it better myself later on. I could see Zach played really hard…Zach, Travis, all the veterans played hard last night. Not that they didn't work today, they worked hard, but it was tough for them. To me, they didn't have time to recuperate. It's a little too early, that's the only thing. But the practice was good. The guys, I was really pleased with them."

The coach talked about the preseason debut of 18-year-old Swedish defenseman Alexander Urbom against the Rangers. Urbom was back skating with the veteran group Thursday morning.

"He's young, first game, for sure he was nervous, but he's fine," Lemaire said. "That's why he's here again."

Urbom called the experience "fun."

"First game, I was really excited to play," he said. "It was OK. I tried to play easy, and I think I did."

He admitted to being nervous before the game, when he spoke to family in Stockholm to let them know he was playing. He couldn't call home afterward because of the six-hour time difference.

"Of course, it was special," he said.

• Lemaire said the first cuts of camp would be made on Friday.

Morning session
12:15p – Skaters divided into two: one group of mostly forwards, another of mostly defensemen. Defensemen were taking breakaways…for every one in, the forward group skated a lap. D-men had a few consecutive goals, making for a lot of skating by the forwards. White, Salvador, Mottau were among the scorers.

12:04p – One-on-one puck possession drills along the boards.

11:53a – Parise takes big hit in corner from Andy Greene during a drill. Parise seemed a little shaken.

11:43p – Scrimmage underway.

11:22a – On D: Oduya, Greene, Fraser, Salvador, Murphy, Martin, White, Mottau, Urbom, Leach.

11:18a – In green: Jay Pandolfo-Rod Pelley-Niclas Bergfors; in light blue: Andrew Peters-Tim Sestito-Ilkka Pikkarainen.

11:16a – David Clarkson, who had two PPGs last night, is now on the right side of a gray line with Dainius Zubrus at center and Brian Rolston at left wing.

11:06a – Brendan Shanahan, who had been skating with Parise and Zajac at camp, is on a line with Michael Swift and Vladimir Zharkov. Goaltenders are Martin Brodeur, Gerald Coleman and Yann Danis, who made 28 saves to beat the Rangers in last night's preseason opener. He stopped five of six attempts in the shootout, allowing Zajac to notch the winning tally in the sixth round.

11:05a – Players on the ice for Thursday's morning session at training camp. ZZ Pops line back together today, wearing red jerseys, for the first time of camp.
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