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|Most potent top line resides in Jersey|
|Written by Bill Weisbrod|
|Friday, 18 May 2012 20:40|
The New York Rangers have faced various offensive talents when they played the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals. They survived those challenges but facing and trying to stop Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac has proven difficult so far.
So far in their playoff run, the New York Rangers have had to contain offensive talent like Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza of the Senators in the opening round, then Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin of the Capitals in the Conference semifinals.
But Henrik Lundqvist and New York's airtight, shot-blocking defense is in the midst of its most difficult test in ithe Conference Final as it attempts to stop wingers Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise.
The two have skated on the same even-strength line throughout the majority of the regular season. Through parts of the playoffs they have been joined by center Travis Zajac to form what is probably the most offensively lethal line remaining in the tournament.
Coach Peter DeBoer split the trio up for game one at Madison Square Garden, and subsequently saw he team shut out 3-0.
"Maybe it didn't translate into 5-on-5 goals," DeBoer told reporters on Thursday. "But I think more than how that line specifically played, I thought it gave us four lines that we could roll and really keep pressure on the other team. I like what they did.
The three players all have remarkable storylines coming out of the 2011-12 season.
Parise is in his first year as captain of the Devils, but it may actually be his last with the franchise. After seven years in the NHL, the 27-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent and could leave the team that drafted him in 2003.
Meanwhile, Newsday quoted Parise's father, former NHLer J.P., as saying Zach "likes (Rangers coach John Tortorella) a lot," and that he would "fit right in there."
Either way, he is likely to get offered a lucrative, long-term contract and ever-shrewd general manager Lou Lamoriello may be hesitant to agree to such a deal.
One of the reasons he may be hesitant, is that he already handed Kovalchuk a 15-year pact two summers ago. The 29-year-old Russian has lived up to the hype thatcomes along with such a contract, and has proven to be a leader in the dressing room and on the ice.
Zajac, meanwhile, played only 15 regular-season games after injuring himself during offseason workouts last summer. He has found his game at the most important time however, with five goals and five assists in 14 playoff games.
On Wednesday, the Devils were able to roll out a potent second line of Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus and Petr Sykora. DeBoer slotted impressive rookie center Adam Henrique between David Clarkson and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Given the lineup's success on Wednesday night, it's likely New Jersey will start with the same setup on Saturday afternoon in Newark.
And not permitting that first line to score at even strength for a second straight game would be a Herculean feat for the Rangers.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 19 May 2012 01:14|