NEWARK, N.J. -- Try as he might, Zach Parise couldn’t quite bite off the word that defined his feelings and likely those of most of his teammates at finding themselves down 2-1 in the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers.
The Devils captain has gone five straight games without a goal and has just one assist over that time. In Game 3, he had a number of terrific chances, including a 2-on-1 with linemate Travis Zajac late in the first period of a scoreless game, but he has not been able to find the back of the net. The Devils had the better of the scoring chances in Game 3 but lost 3-0 and have been shut out twice in the series.
As a result, the usually affable and extraordinarily accessible Parise declined to talk to the media on Saturday afternoon.
“I probably would have said some things I'd regretted, so. It is frus... just upset with how the game went,” Parise said, biting off the second part of what sure sounded like the word "frustrating."
Asked about taking a pass on his normal routine of talking to reporters, Parise said he figured he’d earned a break.
“I was just upset with the way the game went," Parise said. "That was it. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job making myself available for almost 100 games this year. Figured if I took one night off it would be OK.”
The players may be frustrated at not taking advantage of opportunities -- the Devils were 0-for-5 on the power play on Saturday and have just one power-play goal in 12 attempts in the series -- but head coach Pete DeBoer isn’t down on his captain.
“Zach always gives you the same thing: 100 percent effort, 100 percent team play,” DeBoer said. "Could easily have two or three goals in the series and we'd be praising him for how well he's played; like he did against Philadelphia, the series before. So it's going to come with him. I've got no concerns about Zach or his play."
Parise’s line and the entire forward contingent will have a different look in Monday's Game 4 in Newark as speedy center Jacob Josefson will make his NHL playoff debut after returning from a broken wrist sustained late in the regular season.
“He finished the season very strong," DeBoer said. "The last three, four weeks of the season he was great. Fresh legs this time of year -- you're 15 games into a playoff run -- can never hurt. And he's been an effective guy for us, and we missed him while he was out.”
Petr Sykora, who has been ineffective, will come out of the lineup and DeBoer is using the occasion to make significant changes to his line combinations.
After reuniting Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk in Game 2 of this series, line combinations used at practice Sunday suggest DeBoer will once again separate the two skilled wingers with Parise skating with center Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus, a trio that has had some success in the past.
“Hopefully we can find that again," Parise said. "We need to start scoring some goals.
“We’ve got to get something going so we’ll see, hopefully it’ll stick, hopefully it’ll work.”
Kovalchuk looks to play with center Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias, although it’s unclear which side Kovalchuk will play. It looked at practice like he might move to the left wing for the first time since early in the season, but he said after he didn’t think that would happen.
“When the team is struggling to score goals, we're trying to mix," Kovalchuk said.
"He's [Elias] a great playmaker. He's always in a great position. So I think we can help each other a lot and create a lot of chances and hang in there. And he can skate, and he's great with the puck. So I'm really excited to play with Elias tomorrow night."