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Devils, Sharks alter lineups with Zajac, Couture out

by Mike G. Morreale

SHARKS (3-0-0) at DEVILS (0-3-0)


NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac, who is dealing with a lower-body injury, will not be in the lineup against the San Jose Sharks and former coach Peter DeBoer on Friday at Prudential Center.

Devils coach John Hynes confirmed that while Zajac was a participant at the morning skate Friday, he isn't healthy enough to play. There is no timetable for his return.

Zajac, who didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday, said he doesn't recall a specific hit or play that caused the injury. He did, though, say he is optimistic he won't be out too long.

"I didn't think it would be smart [to play]," Zajac said. "It didn't feel as good as I thought it would after a couple days of rest. So I'll take another day and hopefully that helps."

Zajac was scoreless in three games for the Devils but leads their forwards in average ice time at 21:14 per game.

"It's just something that's been nagging the last week," Zajac said. "And with two days off here I felt maybe having a couple days to rest would help. And it has gotten better, but just not to the point where I thought I'd be comfortable enough to be at my best out there."

It remains to be seen how Hynes will restructure his lines in Zajac's absence, but Stefan Matteau will be a healthy scratch against the Sharks.

DeBoer, who coached the Devils for parts of four seasons, including a trip to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, was forced to adjust the Sharks lineup after learning center Logan Couture will miss 4-6 weeks because of a fractured right fibula at the ankle. Couture, who sustained his injury during practice Thursday, had been centering one of the top lines, with right wing Joel Ward and left wing Patrick Marleau.

Nikolay Goldobin, a first-round pick (No. 27) in the 2014 NHL Draft was recalled from San Jose of the American Hockey League and will make his NHL debut on the top line with center Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. The 20-year-old arrived in New Jersey at midnight to prepare for the game.

"It's my first game so I'm a little nervous. But I'll be fine," Goldobin said. "I'll be playing with Pavelski and Thornton, just like I did during the [preseason], so I'm looking forward to that."

DeBoer said he expects plenty of energy and enthusiasm from Goldobin. He had one shot on goal and a minus-2 rating in one game with San Jose. In nine games with the Sharks' AHL team last season he had three goals and five points.

"He's all about skill," DeBoer said. "When he's on the ice things are happening offensively and he's got a commitment about him about learning the game away from the puck. He wants to be able to contribute at both ends of the rink and that's a nice quality to have."

With Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi (lower body) out Friday, forward Ben Smith will make his season debut after being a healthy scratch the first three games. Smith likely will begin the game on the fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and Mike Brown.

Devils goaltender Cory Schneider is expected to make his second start of the season. Schneider has practiced the past three days after missing a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday to be with his wife, Jill, who gave birth to the couple's first child early that morning.

Here are the projected lineups:


Nikolay Goldobin - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Tomas Hertl - Joel Ward

Matt Nieto - Chris Tierney - Tommy Wingels

Barclay Goodrow - Ben Smith - Mike Brown

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon - Matt Tennyson

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock

Injured: Logan Couture (leg), Joonas Donskoi (lower body)

Scratched: Dylan Demelo


Mike Cammalleri - Sergey Kalinin - Jordin Tootoo

Jiri Tlusty - Adam Henrique - Lee Stempniak

Brian O'Neill - Jacob Josefson - Kyle Palmieri

Reid Boucher - Stephen Gionta - Tuomo Ruutu

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Jon Merrill - John Moore

David Schlemko - Damon Severson

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Injured: Patrik Elias (knee), Travis Zajac (lower body)

Scratched: Eric Gelinas, Stefan Matteau

Status update: When Zajac missed practice Thursday, Hynes had Kalinin in Zajac's spot between Cammalleri and Tootoo. Hynes also had Stempniak replace Palmieri on a line with Tlusty and Henrique, with Palmieri moving to play with O'Neill and Josefson. … Jones is expected to make his fourth straight start in goal for the Sharks; Stalock is expected to start Saturday against the New York Islanders.

Who's hot: Jones is 3-0-0 with a 0.33 goals-against average, two shutouts and a .987 save percentage for the Sharks. He is 44 seconds away from breaking Stalock's Sharks-best shutout streak of 178:11 set in January 2014. … Palmieri has points (one goal, two points) in consecutive games after scoring his first goal with the Devil against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

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