• RSS

Devils lighten mood before hitting road

Brodeur to start in Montreal on Thursday

Tuesday, 10.19.2010 / 3:43 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
Share with your Friends

Devils lighten mood before hitting road
Tallinder has a shorthanded goal this season.
Henrik Tallinder went into a wobbly crouch, pretending to lose his balance on the outside edges of his skate blades. The Devils were working on a puck possession drill Tuesday, and Tallinder was playfully mimicking Dainius Zubrus' skating stride.

Zubrus' linemates, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, couldn’t help but laugh at Tallinder’s antics. Zubrus, meanwhile, rolled with the punches.

“He showed that I was skating funny or something,” he said with a smile. “Trying to make a joke, which I disagreed with.”

Said Tallinder: "I was just having some fun with him."

Despite their slow start, the Devils (1-4-1) are trying to stay loose as they work toward getting back on track. Though Saturday’s loss to Boston left them winless in five of their first six games, this week’s practices have helped to release some of the tension of this frustrating skid.

Tallinder, one of the Devils’ summer free agent signings, has no problem with being the guy that lightens the mood.

“If I have a chance I will, for sure, and I got the chance today with Zubie,” Tallinder said of his former Buffalo teammate. “He can handle it.”

It's early yet, and with so many new faces in the room, sometimes chemistry and camaraderie need time to develop.

“Everybody’s feeling their way, and I like to see that,” head coach John MacLean said. “You can work hard and still have fun in practice. Having fun is talking, and communicating is a big thing.”

Turning the page is all the Devils can do before visiting Montreal on Thursday. On offense, goals have been hard to come by. On defense, they've been hard to stop.

You won’t be able to function if you’re squeezing your stick too hard or just looking at the downside all the time. You have to be kind of loose and try to turn it around. - Henrik Tallinder
"As far as scoring chances, we are getting some quality chances," MacLean said. "We are definitely getting quality chances and I’m confident with this group. The puck is going to go in."

They're confident that the right pieces are here, and that it’s just a matter of putting them all together. But that can’t happen without the proper mindset.

“There’s so many veteran guys on this team, so you kind of know if you’re going to be down all the time, you’re not going to change this around,” said Tallinder. “You have to have a good attitude about it. Yes, everybody realizes the situation, but you still have to be able to function. You won’t be able to function if you’re squeezing your stick too hard or just looking at the downside all the time. You have to be kind of loose and try to turn it around.”

Zubrus, who had the Devils’ lone goal against the Bruins, agreed.

“We have three games this week and obviously it starts with one win, but if we can put together a good stretch, we’ll be right there,” he said. “We’ll be back in the top eight, and we’ll be smiling a little bit more. There’s still a lot of work to be done, we’re in a little bit of a hole, I don’t think it’s panic time or anything like that.”

The doors to the dressing room remained closed for a while after the last loss, leaving the players to hash things out among themselves.

“You’re always disappointed when you lose, doesn’t matter how you lose or when you lose,” Tallinder said. “We were talking in the locker room afterwards that what we need to do now is move forward, have a good couple of practices here this week, get ready for the Montreal game and maybe try to learn each other more on the ice and off the ice. That’s what we’ve focused on so far this week.”

MacLean has noticed a difference. All that’s left to do now is pile up some victories.

“I think they understand the situation,” said the coach. “I think that these two days they’ve been very happy with how they’ve practiced. They’ve worked. We have another one tomorrow, then we have to get ready to play the Canadiens.”

Zubrus is familiar with playing style of Parise and Zajac.
Zubrus enjoys top billing with Parise, Zajac
Zubrus spent little time last season with Parise and Zajac, but it’s hard to forget their performance from Jan. 29 against Toronto. They combined for 11 points, with Zubrus accounting for a goal and two assists. He was back on the same line Saturday, and has remained there through two practices.

“We remember that kind of a good night, for sure,” Zubrus said. “Every now and then we just joke around and say, 'Let’s have another one of those.’ There’s a few games that we played together last year. We did pretty well I thought, but that never really lasted. I think Jacques (Lemaire) at the time thought the lineup needed to be spread out a little bit differently. It’s been good. They work hard and they do things consistently, and for myself it hasn’t been that hard, obviously. I don’t think it would be too hard for anybody, really, to play with those guys."

He began the season centering a line with Brian Rolston and David Clarkson. After Rolston’s surgery to repair a sports hernia, Rod Pelley was slotted into the left side. Now Zubrus is back on the wing, and he’s excited for what his new threesome can do together.

“It’s good. Those guys, they’re high-tempo, they work hard,” he said. “It seems like I can read them pretty good, just the way they play. I’ve watched them now for a few years, and pretty much every shift on certain plays, they do the same thing over and over and it works for them. I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it’s an easier read for players to play with them. They do it at a high speed and they create chances. It’s been fun."

The Devils opened with six games in nine nights, and until now, there had been little time for practices. Zubrus has used the opportunity to get reacquianted with Parise and Zajac, and has seen the team make some necessary adjustments as a whole.

“I think it’s been two good practices,” he said. “I think things that we were doing and the pace that we had are going to be helpful for us. The drills that we did, guys were sharper than they were a week ago. I think it’s been a good two days, then tomorrow we have another practice. I’m sure it’ll be a good practice again. So far this week it’s been good."

MacLean said that Martin Brodeur will face the Canadiens on Thursday. Brodeur is 38-16-5 all-time against his hometown club, and his career 1.78 goals-against average is his lowest against any opponent. … The Devils return home to face Buffalo on Saturday before visiting the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. New Jersey opens a five-game western road trip in San Jose on Wednesday, Oct. 27.

Today's lines:
Parise Zajac Zubrus
Elias Josefson Kovalchuk
Pelley Arnott Langenbrunner
Mair Sestito Clarkson

D Magnan Taormina White Greene Tallinder Corrente
G Brodeur Hedberg