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Devils try new lines at practice

Monday, 10.18.2010 / 11:01 AM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Devils try new lines at practice
Kovalchuk skated Monday with Elias and Josefson.
After seeing his team pick up one win in its first six games, head coach John MacLean went back to the drawing board for Monday's practice.

He overhauled his lines, putting Ilya Kovalchuk on right wing with Jacob Josefson and Patrik Elias, and forming new trios of Rod Pelley-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner, and Adam Mair-Tim Sestito-David Clarkson.

"Hard but good," Langenbrunner said of a grueling session that featured plenty of skating and one-on-one battle drills. "It's not that you want it, you just go out there and work. I think that's what was accomplished today."

The top line of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus combined for the lone goal in Saturday's loss to Boston, and remained together Monday. The players will have a couple of days to get accustomed to their new potential linemates before visiting Montreal on Thursday.

"We have one win," said the captain. "I think we're looking for something, yeah. Obviously, what we were doing wasn't working, so we're trying something."

The next few days are critical for getting the team back on the same page. The Devils have gotten off to a 1-4-1 start and will play seven of their next eight on the road. They have scored seven goals in five games since potting a season-high three in their Oct. 8 home opener.

"We’re going to work on facets of our game," MacLean said. "We have to work on D zone, we have to work on our neutral zone, our O zone, our power play. We have to work on our game. We have the time here to work on our game. As I said, since the season started, we really haven’t had any practice time. We’ll have three days here to work on tightening some things up."

On a positive note, the coach liked what he saw on Monday.

"Yeah and that’s what we need," he said. "We need that effort, and we keep talking about it. We have to have that night in, night out."

MacLean has noticed Pelley's hard work in recent games, and installed him with Langenbrunner and Arnott for some added energy.

"I think Pells has played well and Pells has some good energy there," the coach said. "Hopefully he’ll give a little zip to the line on the forecheck and help them out. Jason’s got a good shot, and we need to get those lines going."

We need that effort, and we keep talking about it. We have to have that night in, night out. - Head coach John MacLean
Pelley tried to take the change in stride.

"Obviously, they're two veteran guys, and whether it's a game or practice, it's enjoyable for a guy like me to play with them," Pelley said. "If it happens that we're together in a game, so be it, just work hard."

Langenbrunner pointed a finger at himself and indicated that he and Arnott need to be better. The captain has three assists and a minus-6 rating, and is still looking for his first goal.

"We have to simplify and just get back to work," Langenbrunner said. "We’re trying to make something happen when it isn’t there. I think that goes for a lot of us. We’re trying to find a way to score every shift, and that’s not the way you play hockey. You go out there and you play the game and then the opportunities will come. I don’t think it’s been a lack of effort. It’s a lack of playing in the right areas and doing the little things. That’s what we’ve been missing."

The ZIP Line experiment of Kovalchuk with Parise and Zajac remains on hiatus. Kovalchuk played left wing with Josefson and Clarkson in Saturday's game, but was back on the right side for practice.

"We’ll see how he goes here," MacLean said. "I think Josefson has played a couple of nice games. I think he’s a good player. I think with Patty there, it should be good for Josefson to have those two guys on either side of him to help him along."

The coach was encouraged by the play of his top line on Saturday. Zubrus had some success with Parise and Zajac last season, including the Jan. 29 meeting with Toronto in which they combined for four goals and seven assists.

"I saw them forecheck really hard," MacLean said. "I saw them do a lot of good things. They worked extremely hard and I thought they worked extremely well together."

Magnan recalled
The Devils made a roster move Monday, assigning 19-year-old defenseman Alexander Urbom to Albany (AHL), and recalling 24-year-old blueliner Olivier Magnan.

Magnan had one assist in three games with the Devils' top minor-league affiliate, which has won two in a row since dropping the home opener.

"I'm pretty happy," he said. "You're playing hockey to get that phone call to play in the NHL. I'm pretty excited about it."

Magnan received the call last night from Albany GM Chris Lamoriello.He was told to get to New Jersey in time for practice, and hopes to bring a solid defensive presence to the blueline.

"It's an opportunity," he said. "When you get a chance, you just jump on it."

In Albany, he was paired with Mark Fayne and Harry Young to bolster the penalty kill.

"I want to do the same job I was doing there, which was play hard defensively, maybe get some PK time and play well in my zone," he said.

Urbom impressed in training camp, and will get valuable seasoning in the minors. MacLean expects Magnan to play Thursday in Montreal.

"(Urbom) came and had a good camp, he got some experience, but he needs to keep developing as a player," MacLean said. "He needs to get some ice time, and from what I understand, Mags has played very well down there, the games he’s played. I know him, he’s been in the organization a few years. He’s a strong kid, he skates well, competes hard. He’ll get an opportunity."

Volchenkov still sidelined
Anton Volchenkov did not practice and remains sidelined after taking a Nicklas Backstrom slapshot to the face on Oct. 9. He sustained a broken nose and has been suffering from a stiff neck.

"I would welcome him back," MacLean said. "As far as getting him back, I would love to have him back, but I want to get him back when he’s healthy."


Defense: Olivier Magnan-Grenier, Matt Corrente, Colin White, Henrik Tallinder, Andy Greene, Matt Taormina.

Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg