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.
After being a healthy scratch for 11 games, Mark Fayne will be back in the lineup Friday night against the Lightning. In order to get Fayne in, someone must sit and tonight that person is Adam Larsson.
Via Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice:
“I think it’s tough for anyone in that situation,” he said. “But, at the same, you’ve got to understand why you’re sitting out, try to work on things. It’s always different too watching the game from up top. You get a different perspective on things. You see the game from a different angle and sometimes that can be helpful.”
Did Fayne understand why he was sitting out?
“It was just the thought that group of defensemen was going to give them the best chance to win,” Fayne said. “I’ve got to show that I can be part of that group and get back into the regular rotation.”
I’m glad Fayne is back in the lineup. While he needed to sit at the time he was benched, 11 games is far too long for a player that is one of the Devils’ top six defensemen. As for Larsson? Look, ever since he got into the lineup in January, DeBoer usually sits him down once a month just to send a message/shake the cobwebs/teach him something. You can pick one of those three here. Me? I think he’s been struggling lately, making a couple costly turnovers and I think he needs a night or two off. If the Devils win tonight, maybe DeBoer doesn’t wanna change things and Larsson ends up on the sidelines for a while. Best case is Larsson sits out tonight and tomorrow and gets back to playing sound defensive hockey and maybe decides to make a play in the offensive end every now and then. Wouldn’t that be nice?
I never thought I’d write that headline, but there it is. At today’s morning skate in Ottawa, none other than Matt D’Agostini has been bumped up to right wing on the Devils’ top line alongside Andrei Loktionov and Adam Henrique. The rest of today’s forward lines and defensive pairings:
While people might still insist on calling the Loktionov the Devils’ top unit, we all know it’ll be the Elias-Zajac-Clarkson trio that will have to carry the load for at least two weeks. I don’t mind the idea of D’Agostini on that line. I like his speed and he did sore 20 goals recently enough that the Devils can still use it a banner reason to promote him. That said, I see several problems with that troika. For one, there aren’t enough finishers. I like Henrique and Loktionov’s skillsets, but neither of them are going to be scoring 40 goals anytime soon and I don’t think D’Agostini is suddenly going to return to form after just a couple games as a Devil. I do think that line can create some problems with their playmaking ability, but I think Henrique is really going to have to step up if they’re going to even remotely replace Kovy’s production. And that’s my second issue with this line. Can Henrique take a step forward? I’m not sure. I think we all agree his long-term ceiling is sky high, but he’s struggled to score goals this season outside of the occasional outburst. Also, I don’t know how Loktionov will fare without Kovy. We saw how much the top line sagged when Lokti missed a pair of games last week. Was that because of the way the Devils had to rearrange their centermen or was that due to Lokti and Kovy suddenly being separated. I have a lot more questions than answers about this line, which is how I imagine Pete DeBoer feels as well.