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Wild vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Devils' Top Line Giving Canes Fits

Monday, 04.20.2009 / 3:26 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Devils\' Top Line Giving Canes Fits
As hard as it may be to become an offensive force in a series that has become more defensive by the game, the Devils’ top line has done exactly that.

Paul Branecky
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Led by Zach Parise, who is proving that his 45-goal regular season was no fluke, that unit has accounted for five of New Jersey’s eight goals thus far. Even after losing right wing Jamie Langenbrunner in Game 2, they didn’t miss a beat with veteran Brian Rolston taking his place.

“They’re clearly playing exceptionally well, they’ve got great hands and their work ethic I think is probably what they bring every night,” said Canes Coach Paul Maurice. 

Travis Zajac, who centers the trio, scored the overtime winner in Game 3. He hadn’t scored a goal since March 17 prior to that, although his all-around play and two assists in the series didn’t make that much of a concern.

Although that was certainly Zajac’s turn in the spotlight, the star of the series has undoubtedly been Parise, whose five points have him in a four-way tie for second place among all playoff scorers.

“We need to do a better job on him,” said Maurice. “I’m not sure he necessarily needs a shadow, but certainly a better awareness of when he has the puck. He seems to be able to hold onto it a lot longer than we’d like.

“Taking the puck from him wasn’t something that other teams had been able to do over the 82-game regular season, and I don’t think it’s going to be any easier in the playoffs for us.”

Not unlike the Devils, the Canes scored a lot of goals in the regular season by forcing turnovers from the opposition’s more offensive-minded players and moving quickly in the other direction. Given the way Parise and company have been playing in this series, that simply may not be a possibility.

“We’ll try to match that and understand that when they have the puck, we’re not looking to steal it to go to offense,” said Maurice. “We’re just looking to shut them down.”

 “We’ve just got to finish our checks, play hard, skate hard, play solid defense and know when they’re out there,” said Tuomo Ruutu. “Obviously, they’re a great line.”

Two of Parise’s goals have come from redirects from point shots, which Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward has had absolutely no chance to stop. Those unfamiliar with the 5-foot-11 forward’s resume might not expect that from a smaller, speedier player, as that skill set is seen more often with bigger, more powerful players who make their living parked in front of the opposition’s goal.

“He comes through there and you’ve got to be aware of him,” said Eric Staal. “You’ve got to be aware of his stick, and guys who score that many goals during the year find that area and find that puck, so you’ve got to make sure you tying up that stick and being hard on him. You’ve got to be more aware of him than we have been.”

While shutting down the Devils’ top unit will undoubtedly be a team effort, Maurice said the coaching staff will consider making a lineup change on the defensive end. Dennis Seidenberg, a reliable shot-blocker, has been a healthy scratch for each of the last two games.

“We’ve got seven healthy defensemen, and we believe in all of them,” said Maurice. “We’ll look at that for tomorrow, as we do after every game.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 62 41 16 5 171 135 87
2 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
3 NYR 61 38 17 6 192 152 82
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 61 24 30 7 142 162 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 61 12 28 -16 40
E. Staal 56 18 19 -10 37
E. Lindholm 60 11 16 -16 27
J. Skinner 56 16 10 -16 26
R. Nash 58 7 15 -9 22
N. Gerbe 57 7 15 -11 22
V. Rask 59 8 12 -16 20
J. McClement 61 6 12 3 18
J. Staal 25 4 12 -2 16
A. Nestrasil 33 4 10 4 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 17 19 4 .913 2.37
A. Khudobin 7 11 3 .906 2.60