It’s no secret that Adam Henrique has had a bit of a rough ride this season. After nearly winning the Calder Trophy as a rookie last year, Henrique has struggled to find his groove in his sophomore campaign. Pete DeBoer noticed and decided to give Henrique a night off with the Devils freshly eliminated from the playoff race.
Via Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice:
“I think he needs to take a step back for a night and just watch,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “His confidence isn’t where it needs to be. So, that’s the solution I’ve come up with.”
Henrique admitted he has been struggling with his confidence.
“I guess a little bit,” he said. “Any time you go through a tough stretch, eventually it weighs on you. You start thinking about it more. You start maybe gripping the stick a little bit more in certain areas. I still feel like I was getting opportunities at times. I just wasn’t putting them in, obviously.”
After Zach Parise left in free agency, the Devils were counting on strong offensive seasons from guys like Henrique and Travis Zajac. In hindsight, that seems fairly foolish. Red-hot rookies normally struggle in their sophomore seasons when teams have a full year of tape on them and a player like Henrique has to find another level in just his second year in the league. The night off is a good idea, I think, although I wouldn’t bench him for the rest of the season. I think it’s important for him to go into the offseason with some legitimate game experience because, like it or not, he’s going to be a huge part of the Devils’ growth next year, as will Zajac. I don’t think this season says much about Henrique’s development other than he took a typical step back and I think Zajac will be better after having a full season and offseason to adjust to not having his buddy around. The good news for New Jersey is that Henrique’s sub-par season will help the Devils in contract talks this summer when the center will be a restricted free agent. The Devils have a lot of key FAs this summer (Elias, Clarkson, Zubrus, Loktionov) Can you imagine what Henrique would’ve cost if he had duplicated his rookie year in a shortened season? Yeesh. So there is a brightside — kinda. Almost. OK, not really, but it’s something to grab onto.
Andrei Loktionov was a healthy scratch for Thursday night’s game against the Flyers. Loktionov admitted he hasn’t been playing well and Pete DeBoer is wont to switch things up, especially during a skid. Today, Loktionov found himself on the outside looking in again.
It’s not a game-day skate, so nothing’s guaranteed. But as much as DeBoer likes to change things up when the Devils are losing, he usually prefers to run the same lineup out after a win. My guess is Loktionov ends up in the press box again for Saturday’s game against the Panthers, but we should know for sure after tomorrow’s morning skate.
The Devils might be out of the playoff chase, but that doesn’t mean Pete DeBoer is going to stop trying to find a combination that finally gets the Devils back into the win column. Tonight, he’ll be swapping out Andrei Loktionov for Jacob Josefson, something Loktionov says he deserved.
Via Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice:
“I think two games I played good and the last game I played OK,” Loktionov said. “That’s not good for me. I have to try play always good. I can’t play like that – up and down, up and down. I have to (keep getting better).
“Sometimes it’s good to see how the team plays when you sit upstairs. Sometimes you have to see what you need to do to score or do something on the ice.”
Coaches often tell young players – and Loktionov is still 22 – that they want them to watch a game from above to pick up on what other players are doing, but Loktionov said no one had to tell him that.
“They didn’t say anything,” he said. “It was from me because I didn’t score six, seven games. No points too. I have to do something. I expect that decision from the coach. I have to work hard on the ice and off the ice because if they put me in next game I will be playing much better. I kind of slowed down the last five games. Maybe I was thinking everything was good. I scored. I got some points. It’s life. It’s tough.”
If it feels like DeBoer is grasping at straws, it’s because he is. Ten straight losses will do that to any coach, especially one who already likes to tinker like DeBoer does. Josefson had his shot earlier in the year but failed to contribute anything on the offensive end and was sent down tto Albany, where he was sidetracked by a concussion. Loktionov was impressive to start once he joined the Devils and seemed to develop immediate chemistry with fellow Russian Ilya Kovalchuk. Unfortunately, once Kovy went out of the lineup, Loktionov’s play dipped noticeably. I think he also hit a bit of the rookie wall while playing on a team that’s already struggling to score. The Devils are definitely high on Loktionov — you don’t play a rookie on the top line for most of the season if you’re not high on a player. But DeBoer has done this with several young players in hopes that it sends a message helps them relax and get their game back on track. I definitely think we’ll see Loktionov back in the lineup before the season is over, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he spends more than one game in the press box.
Adam Larsson took a shot off his leg at practice Tuesday and won’t be in the lineup Wednesday night. He’ll be replaced by Henrik Tallinder, which is not the only change in Pete DeBoer’s lineup.
Once again Pete DeBoer is shuffling multiple bodies in and out of the lineup. It’s a trick he’s tried multiple times this season to varying effect. There’s been games where the “trick” has sparked the club or seen a player skate like his ass is on fire, but that’s usually just a one- or two-game fix. Mostly, it’s been a short-term, half-torn, blood-stained bandaid over a gaping wound. They Devils have been searching for a left wing on the first line all season. They’ve been trying to find six reliable defensemen (despite having eight on the roster) all season. They’ve looked for reliable third- and fourth-line wingers while trying to find anybody with a 20-goal scoring touch (Hello, Matt D’Agostini). None of it works. This is all very “deck chairs on the Titanic” rather than trying to find a combination that works. If there were one, DeBoer would’ve found it by now.
I understand health is an issue with Zubrus, Ponikarovsky and Kovalchuk missing large chunks of time this season. Yet only one of those players should actually be playing on the top line. The other two are basically duplicates, although I’d argue Zubrus is a better version of Ponikarovsky. Josefson, Tedenby and Butler never turned out the way the Devils hopes, while Clarkson and Zajac have taken offensive nosedives. When there’s no answers on the roster, it’s nearly impossible to find solutions — no matter how many times you shuffle the cards.
After six consecutive losses, something’s had to give.
Finally tonight something will.
D’Agostini seems to be pressing, so it may not be a terrible idea to let him watch a game. DeBoer said he was looking for more bodies at the front of the net, and Josefson and Kostopoulos are likely the guys to score a “dirty goal” than Ponikarovsky or D’Agostini.
The defensive moves are not stunning either. Volchenkov and Larsson have been good, and in the second of back-to-back games, it seems like New Jersey needs some fresh legs in a must-win game.
Steve Sullivan will make his Devils redux tonight when New Jersey hosts Toronto.
We finally found out on which line and with whom he’ll be playing.
Sullivan is a skilled goal scorer, and with Devils are having trouble scoring goals, so it’s no surprise to see him on New Jersey’s top line with Patrik Elias and Andrei Loktionov. Elias and Sullivan played together in the AHL, and we’ll see if the two of them can find some magic they had there.
The move reunites the CBGB line, as Steve Bernier moves back with Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta on the fourth line. It also takes some of the pressure off Alexei Ponikarovsky– who is no skilled scorer– and Matt D’Agostini, who seems to be pressing. That third line can score goals but may not have to.
Two slumping players, David Clarkson and Travis Zajac, can work themselves out with Dainius Zubrus, who is still trying to regain his form after missing nearly two months with an injury.
All in all, this lineup is the best New Jersey can do without injured-forward Ilya Kovalchuk. These lines will need to jell quickly because Pete DeBoer can’t be patient with struggling lines if they’re not scoring goals with only 10 games to play after tonight
The Devils held somewhat of an informal skate Friday, with all the player that didn’t play Thursday night skating to stay fresh. That includes new addition Steve Sullivan, who will debut with the Devils on Saturday.
We’re not too surprised by Sullivan playing the right side considering the Devils currently have four NHL-quality left wings in Carter, Zubrus, Ponikarovsky and Elias. DeBoer also noted that Sullivan will see some time on the power play, which is something Sullivan did in Pittsburgh last year. Worth noting is that Sullivan played the point for the Pens’ power play, which is something the Devils have been missing since they lost Ilya Kovalchuk to injury. The key here will be remembering to keep your expectations in check. Sullivan is basically ancient (38) in NHL years and hasn’t scored 20 goals since the oddity year of 2006-07. We also don’t know where Sullivan will play in terms of linemates, which DeBoer says he’s still formulating. That’ll go a long way in determining just how much of an offensive role Sullivan will have with these Devils.
While the Devils wait for Steve Sullivan to arrive, Pete DeBoer has been tasked with filling out the lineup card for tonight’s game in Boston. Does that mean the Devils are planning to put Tom Kostopolous back in despite getting knocked the EFF out on Monday? Or maybe Krys Barch returns? Eh, not so fast. DeBoer has something else in mind.
As you’ll notice, Adam Larsson is unlikely to be one of those seven defensemen with Anton Volchenkov returning to the lineup. While it might seem a little odd, it actually makes a ton of sense. For one, Peter Harrold can play up front as well, which means he can easily eat up the seven minutes usually assigned to the fourth-line wingers. Also, Volchenkov’s shot blocking will be seriously needed against the Bruins tonight, particularly considering how much some of their defensemen love to fire the puck at the net. I also like the idea because the Devils have pretty much had one problem defenseman per game for most of the season. Rarely do they get all six D-men clicking and playing well both individually and as a unit. Dressing seven defensemen allows DeBoer to “go with the hot hand,” so to speak. For those of you worried about losing a forward for a team that already can’t score — it’s not like pulling Kostopolous or Barch were going to help New Jersey put goals in the net. DeBoer has also been known to bury those guys and shorten his bench in tight games, which tonight should be if the Devils have a chance to win in the third. With all things considered, I like the idea on a game-by-game basis.
Tonight is the Devils’ third game in four nights, leading to Pete DeBoer swapping things around on defense again.
DeBoer said at practice today that with the Devils playing a lot of games in a tight schedule, he’ll be switching things up on defense. He wants to keep everyone fresh enough to avoid tired legs.
From the Devils’ optional skate Saturday:
There’s no word on who will come out of the lineup for Larsson, although my guess would be Peter Harrold, who did some extra work after this morning’s skate. The Devils would have to clear a roster spot for Tallinder, who is currently on injured reserve.