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Monday, May 21, 2012
Sykora scratched for Game 4; Josefson in

By Mike Mazzeo

NEWARK, N.J. -- Petr Sykora hasn’t missed a game this season.

Which is why the 35-year-old left winger wasn’t happy to see reporters congregate around his locker stall after Monday’s morning skate.

“What do you guys want?” Sykora said. “I get more media attention now than when I’m playing.”

Sykora, who played in all 82 regular-season games and his team’s first 15 playoff contests, will be a healthy scratch in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, Devils coach Peter DeBoer confirmed.

Center Jacob Josefson, who has not played since fracturing his left wrist on April 3, will return to the lineup in place of Sykora.

“It’s not my decision,” said Sykora, who has been held off the scoresheet in his last four games and has just four postseason points. “All I can do right now is stay in shape and be ready to play."

“That’s the way it is.”

The scratch serves as the only blemish on what has been a marvelous season for Sykora.

The Czech native, who hadn’t played in the NHL since 2009-10, signed a one-year, $650,000 contract with the Devils after making the team following a tryout. He proceeded to have 21 goals and 23 assists.

Josefson, 21, has been snakebitten by injury in his first two NHL seasons.

Last year, he missed 30 games due to a detached ligament in his right hand. In 2011-12, he had to sit out 37 games after breaking his clavicle. He came back and was starting to make an impact, but wound up fracturing his left wrist, which forced him out of action for 17 more games.

“He’s had a tough year between the injuries and the adversity he’s faced over the last two years,” DeBoer said. “I really felt in the last 2-3 weeks of the season, he had re-found his game and his confidence. If we can get a version of that player in the lineup [Monday night], we’ll be a better team.”

Josefson was asked what he can bring to the lineup.

“I haven't been playing in awhile, so I’ll have fresh legs and bring speed and energy,” Josefson said.

Josefson is expected to center New Jersey’s third line, which features David Clarkson and Alexei Ponikarovsky on the wings.

“He’s excited, and I’m excited for him,” Clarkson said. “He’s dealt with [all the injuries] really well."

Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk are expected to be separated in Game 4 after skating on different lines in Sunday’s practice. Parise should play with Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus, while Kovalchuk is likely to play with Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias, who will move from center to left wing.

The team’s fourth line -- Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier -- will remain the same.

• Defenseman Anton Volchenkov didn’t want to discuss Brandon Prust’s one-game suspension. After taking a second-period elbow from Prust to the back of his head in Game 3, Volchenkov said he feels good.

DeBoer was asked if Prust’s suspension would have an impact on his team.

“None,” he responded. “It’s one guy out, one guy in. And for us, nothing changes. I’m sure they’re gonna dress a good lineup and be ready to go.”