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Devils' Top Line Giving Canes Fits

Monday, 04.20.2009 / 3:26 PM ET / 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 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
K. Versteeg 63 11 22 -6 33
E. Staal 63 10 23 -3 33
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81