By Tim Panaccio in Philadelphia
While it's not unusual to see coaches make a minor adjustment of a player or two on lines before the start of a Stanley Cup playoff series, the New Jersey Devils changed three of their four lines during Saturday's late afternoon practice ahead of Game 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3 p.m. ET).
New Jersey's new lines were:
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Zack Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Lines had been this:
Parise - Zajac - Kovalchuk
Sykora - Elias - Zubrus
Ponikarovsky - Henrique - Clarkson
Gionta's line remains unchanged.
"I've played with Patty before," Parise said of the changes. "Travis and Kovy have played well together. They've got a lot of depth on their team, so I'm sure that was some of the reasoning too."
Elias was more hesitant to discuss the changes.
"I'm not the coach, so I'm not sure." he said. "You can't ask me that question. I've got no answer for that."
Fair enough, Devils coach Pete DeBoer was asked about the new lines.
"We're moving some guys around," DeBoer said. "I don't know if those are the combinations we'll play tomorrow night or not. I'm not really married to lines right now, but we just wanted to try some different things today in practice.
"We're just looking at some different things. Obviously, we scored well 5-on-5, we outscored Florida almost 2-to-1 (13-8 at even strength). So, we had some good things, but there's always room for improvement.
"I thought our fourth line generated a lot of offence. I thought our top two lines were a little sporadic. So, throughout the series we'll try some different things until we can get everybody going." Being stale
The Flyers will have had six-plus days off when the puck drops.
New Jersey is riding a high of having played a tense seven-game series against the Panthers. Then again, they are a bit tired while the Flyers are well rested.
Who does it favour?
"I'll let you know about 3:20 [Sunday]," DeBoer said. "I don't know the answer to that. You hope that they're a little stale and you hope that we're game ready and refreshed enough that we pick up where we left off in overtime in Florida. But I don't know the answer to that."
Special teams. They figure to be huge in this series.
The Flyers had a franchise record 12 power-play goals against Pittsburgh. The Devils had great difficulty on the penalty kill against Florida, allowing nine power-play goals to the Panthers.
How ironic that happened given the Devils set a post-expansion NHL record with 89.6 penalty killing during this past season.
"I think special teams will be important," Parise said. "They play a physical style of hockey. They draw penalties. They take penalties. So, our PK has got to be better this series and when we get chances on the power play, we've got take advantage."
The big question is whether the Flyers power play will have cooled off given their long layoff between the end of the Penguins series and the start of this one.
"No, we know what to do," Flyers centre Claude Giroux said. "The whole season we've been doing the same thing. Our guys on the ice do a good job of playing together, and both units are going good, so I don't think it makes a difference if you have a layoff." Tim Panaccio reports for CSNPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @tpanotchCSN
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