It took losses in four of their last five games, and five of their last seven, but the New Jersey Devils have finally decided to shuffle their lines a bit. For all the double shifts, half shifts, makeshift and ineffective in-game changes that coach Peter DeBoer seems to love, DeBoer did not really change his starting lineup throughout the skid – with the exception of his failed Henrik Tallinder for Mark Fayne move, of course.
For the second practice in a row, Peter DeBoer had Ilya Kovalchuk skating with Adam Henrique and Andrei Loktionov. It is impossible to deny the flashes of chemistry Loktionov seems to enjoy when centering Ilya Kovalchuk. Putting Kovalchuk with a clutch scorer and high-effort player like Henrique makes sense to fill out a top line that finally has some dynamic talent on it.
The second line keeps Patrik Elias and David Clarkson together, as the prolific wingers have enjoyed immense success playing with one another. Travis Zajac, arguably the team’s best center, slides in with two of the New Jersey Devils’ best scorers.
Though the move may be a little bit late, the Devils need a spark. David Clarkson has faded, Travis Zajac has been ineffective playing with Ilya Kovalchuk, and the top-line has been overmatched and relatively unskilled. The grinding lines continue to carry the New Jersey Devils, but as defense and goaltending struggles lead to losses, New Jersey needs to jumpstart the offense.
Giving Ilya Kovalchuk another scorer, and giving Andrei Loktionov a chance to build on the brief success he’s had playing with Kovalchuk, makes perfect sense. Henrique and Loktionov are familiar with each other, and the top line could have great chemistry going forward. The second line keeps its most prolific scorers together, but gives them a stronger faceoff presence in Zajac, whose return from injury carried the Devils last postseason.
These lines could work for the slumping New Jersey Devils, but one has to wonder why Peter DeBoer waited as long as he did to give it a try.