As I posted earlier, Devils coach Brent Sutter tinkered with his line combinations again during today's practice.
After splitting them up again during Thursday's win over Colorado, Sutter put Dainius Zubrus back at center between Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta. But he also put Brian Rolston at center between Brendan Shanahan and David Clarkson.
Rolston said it's his "understanding" that he will at least begin Saturday's game against Florida at center on that line. It will the first time he played center in a game since Oct. 16 in Atlanta -- the game in which he suffered a high right ankle sprain. Sutter actually shifted Rolston to wing in that game before he was injured.
"I just think that he's been shuffling the lines a little bit lately," Rolston said. "He's trying to find certain things and I'm comfortable with it. Like I said from the beginning, it doesn't matter where I am."
Only four of Rolston's 11 goals this season have been scored at even strength, so it's clear that Sutter is trying to get more offense out of him and Shanahan, who has no goals in his last nine games after scoring three in his first five games with the team.
"I think we have to get back to some more balanced scoring," Rolston said. "Obviously, our top line has carried most of the offense and they're going to continue scoring. There's no question about that. They're a great line, but we have to get scoring from other lines and I think it will be there because we have too many skilled guys that will score."
(To right: Zubrus, who has one goal in his last 18 games, at today's practice).
Sutter mentioned he might still move Rolston back to left wing on a line with Elias at center and Gionta at right wing. Then, Zubrus would move back between Shanahan and Clarkson, who he played with in the third period on Thursday.
"With Rollie, he can play center between Shanny and Clarkie or Zubes can play center with Shanny and Clarkie and Rollie moves up and plays with Gio and Patty," Sutter said. "It's going to be a little bit of a feeling out process over the next little bit here. I'm not taking anything away from what the group has established or what they've done. I just want to make sure everyone's play is up to standards here moving forward in the last 21 games of the season and that's the accountability I have to put on them."
One line combination that Sutter put together during Thursday's game will stay together for Saturday's game. That was John Madden at center between Jay Pandolfo and Bobby Holik. Madden is technically the center, but both he and Holik said they switched off in the middle depending on the circumstances -- location of face-offs, positioning in offensive and defensive zone, etc.
"I liked Bobby on right wing last night," Sutter said.
Sutter also reiterated that he though Pandolfo played "very well" on Thursday. He'll play again Saturday and Mike Rupp will be a healthy scratch again -- as will defenseman Jay Leach.
The Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Jamie Langenrbunner line, which accounted for three goals and five assists Thursday will stay together. It's the other two lines -- Elias-Zubrus-Gionta and Shanahan-Rolston-Clarkson -- where Sutter might do some shuffling Saturday.
"A lot depends on how Zubes is playing and how that line is playing." Sutter said. "That can have some bearing on whether anything is changed or not."
Elias said he has no problem with switching back and forth from left wing to center during games, which has happened three times in the last four contests.
"I don't mind that," he said. "We have to create more offense from lines other than just from Travis' line. We could have some games when those guys could have a checking line on them and then the other guys have to step it up once in a while. I don't mind that."
Zubrus has one goal in his last 18 games. Elias has no even-strength goals (but two on the power play) over his last 12 games. Gionta has three goals in his last 24 games.
Elias believes the only thing missing from the line is "just the finish. That's all"
"We're getting a lot of chances," he said. "It's just the finish. You just have to stay with it and practice shooting and scoring. Try to score every time you have a chance in a game and just try to stay with it because as long as you're getting chances, they're going to start going in."
After scoring a power-play goal Thursday, Elias is now only nine points away from breaking John MacLean's team record of 701 career points. He said he's not close enough to start thinking about the record.
"It will be close enough when I get there," he said.