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Line stability working for Devils

Friday, 02.18.2011 / 2:15 PM / News
By Eric Marin
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Line stability working for Devils
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Now that the Devils have hit their stride, Jacques Lemaire’s doing something he never has before.

He has avoided tinkering with his line combinations, and it’s working.

“Well it’s the first time in 16 years that I don’t change it,” Lemaire said today. “There’s always a first time, and I had to come back to do it.”

It’s easier to leave well enough alone given how the Devils have played. They’re 13-1-2 in their last 16 games, with just one regulation loss since Jan. 9.

Throughout this run, the top two lines of Ilya Kovalchuk-Travis Zajac-Nick Palmieri and Brian Rolston-Patrik Elias-Dainius Zubrus have been virtual constants.

“When guys are playing well, you don’t look as much,” he said. “If a team is losing, you’re going to look at ‘What can I improve?’”

But winning hasn’t stopped Lemaire from tweaking things in the past. Elias says one of the biggest differences between the Lemaire of this year and last is that the lines have stayed together stable even during this successful stretch.

“A lot of the times, to find something that works, you have to leave it alone for a while,” Eilas explained. “That wasn’t the case last year. We always had different [linemates] two, three games, even if we were winning.”

Last year, Lemaire also had a healthy Zach Parise and more opportunity to mix and match.

“I’ve got no other matchups,” he said. “Last year, I had more matchups that I could do. This year, this is what see.

But the coach’s newfound patience might not last. 

“I see changes coming up soon. In the near future. It’s got to be,” Lemaire said.

Why?

“I don’t know [why],” he said. “It’s just life.”

Devils “as good” as last year
Lemaire said this year’s Devils are as good, but not better than the team that won 48 games and the Atlantic Division title last year.

The current squad is red-hot and trying to climb back into the playoff hunt after falling to last place overall during the first half.

“As good, not better. Definitely not,” Lemaire said.

What if they had Parise, who has been out since October?

“Would be better up front, not as good defensively,” said Lemaire. “Definitely better up front.”

Notes
Martin Brodeur will backup Johan Hedberg tonight after missing the past four games with a knee sprain. Hedberg has won four straight, allowing just six goals over that span. Brodeur is 8-1-1 in his last 10.

Lemaire corrected the suggestion that the goaltending is the biggest reason for his club's turnaround.

"I have to say it’s the whole team," the coach said. "I have to say it’s the whole team, because our goalies were not good at the start because our defensemen were not good, and our forwards, at times, were not good. Now that everyone’s playing better, it helps the goalies, too."

Anton Volchenkov returns tonight after serving a three-game suspension.

– Adam Mair will enter the lineup for Tim Sestito, who cleared waivers today. Mair last played on Feb. 10 at Toronto. He was matched with Rod Pelley and David Clarkson at the morning skate. 

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 82 24 43 16 67
P. Elias 65 18 35 -4 53
T. Zajac 80 18 30 3 48
A. Henrique 77 25 18 3 43
M. Zidlicky 81 12 30 -3 42
M. Ryder 82 18 16 -6 34
A. Greene 82 8 24 3 32
E. Gelinas 60 7 22 -3 29
D. Zubrus 82 13 13 1 26
R. Clowe 43 7 19 -10 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 16 15 12 .921 1.97
M. Brodeur 19 14 6 .901 2.51

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