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Devils to split up Jagr-Zajac tandem against Oilers

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- In an effort to jumpstart the offense, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer will incorporate a few lineup changes Friday against the Edmonton Oilers at Prudential Center.

DeBoer will have Andrei Loktionov centering left wing Dainius Zubrus and right wing Jaromir Jagr against the Oilers. Travis Zajac, who developed good chemistry playing alongside Jagr the past three months, is expected to skate between left wing Patrik Elias and right wing Damien Brunner.

Loktionov was a healthy scratch for six games before being held without a point in the past two games, losses to the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche. He now moves alongside team scoring leader Jagr (48 points) in a game the Devils desperately need to maintain pace in the Eastern Conference. Loktionov skated with Jagr earlier in the season so they do have some experience together.

"It was tough when you're not playing," Loktionov said. "I can't say how I'm feeling right now but I know Jagr can only help my game."

The Devils rank 26th in the League in scoring at 2.33 goals per game but have averaged just 1.83 goals over the past six (2-2-2).

"We respect players' opinions, but players often aren't looking at the big picture of the team," DeBoer said when asked what Jagr's reaction was when informed of the lineup change.

"They're looking at setting the table for individual success. For us, this is about finding another goal out of our group. I think Jagr has produced lately but we have 11 other forwards we have to try and get going. I think he understands that.

There will be no change in goal as Cory Schneider is expected to make his fifth consecutive start. Defenseman Anton Volchenkov (lower body) is a game-time decision. Volchenkov missed the team's overtime loss to Colorado on Monday but felt good in his return to practice the past two days. He was one of the last players off the ice Friday.

Five players did not skate at the optional practice Friday for the Devils: Zubrus, forward Michael Ryder and defensemen Andy Greene, Peter Harrold and Bryce Salvador.

Schneider is 6-2-4 with a 1.47 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage in the past 12 games. He ranks second in the NHL with a 1.91 GAA for the season and sixth with a .925 save percentage.

"We had a good week of practice and had time to go over things and sort of re-analyze," Schneider said. "We're looking forward to these next two games, making a statement going into the break and putting ourselves in a good position so everyone is in a good frame of mind."

The Devils will play the Washington Capitals on Saturday in the last game before the Olympic break. New Jersey will open its post-Olympic schedule Feb. 27 against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Prudential Center. The Devils will play 14 of their 23 games after the break at home.

DeBoer said he hasn't yet determined his starting goalie against the Capitals. Martin Brodeur's last start was Jan. 26 at Yankee Stadium against the New York Rangers. He allowed six goals on 21 shots and was pulled after two periods.

The Oilers, who beat the New York Rangers 2-1 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, did not have a morning skate. Edmonton goalie Ben Scrivens made 35 saves in the win. Since being traded to Edmonton, Scrivens is 3-3-0 with a 2.01 GAA and .948 save percentage.

Nail Yakupov, the No. 1 pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, scored the winner with 1:38 remaining in the third period to give the Oilers their fifth win in six games.

Yakupov, who has 11 goals this season, has been playing well recently on the team's top line, with left wing Taylor Hall of center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Here are the probable line combinations for both teams:


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Nail Yakupov

David Perron - Sam Gagner - Jordan Eberle

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Ales Hemsky

Luke Gazdic - Ryan Smyth - Ryan Jones

Nick Schultz - Justin Schultz

Andrew Ference - Mark Fraser

Martin Marincin - Jeff Petry

Ilya Bryzgalov

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Jesse Joensuu, Corey Potter, Anton Belov

Injured: Philip Larsen (illness)


Dainius Zubrus - Andrei Loktionov - Jaromir Jagr

Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - Damien Brunner

Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Jon Merrill - Peter Harrold

Cory Schneider

Martin Brodeur

Scratched: Jacob Josefson

Injured: Anton Volchenkov (lower body)

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