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.
The Devils held an optional skate Saturday morning and newcomer Matt D’Agostini was a full participant. D’Agostini is expected to make his Devils debut tonight against the Panthers.
Via Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice:
Devils coach Pete DeBoer said D’Agostini will play right wing tonight, but he hadn’t decided his line combinations yet or which forward will come out of the lineup.
“The line combinations we’re not set in stone yet,” DeBoer said. “We’re going to have another meeting after pre-game skate. So, we’ll decide on that this afternoon, , but he’s for me a top nine type forward, so we’re going to give him that opportunity.”
DeBoer said the same six defensemen will dress, meaning Mark Fayne will again be a healthy scratch.
D’Agostini sliding in at right wing makes sense. For one, he’s a right-handed shot and we know how much DeBoer prefers to use wingers on their natural side. Also, with Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson and Ryan Carter set on the top three lines, DeBoer has been searching for a fourth-line right winger. It’s a spot where the Devils have been searching for that one player to fit all season, much like they have with the first line left wing. Tom Kostopolous was the latest man to attempt it although I don’t think anyone was particularly blown away by what we saw from him. I like the idea of D’Agostini giving DeBoer some potential flexibility and goal scoring depth on the fourth line, although he did say that he views D’Agostini as a top-nine guy. We’ll have to wait and see. Tonight’s pregame line rushes should be pretty interesting.
As for the defense, I think I have no idea why Mark Fayne still isn’t playing. Is it because the Devils won Tuesday? I said on Twitter the other day that I thought Fayne needed to be in the lineup but I thought Peter Harrold maybe deserved another game. Well, he got that game and while he was solid, Fayne is still clearly the better defenseman. Plus, once Henrik Tallinder returns, it’ll only make the lineup even more difficult to crack and at that point, who comes out?
The current group has been playing pretty well, so I can’t and won’t get upset about this. But there will come a time where DeBoer will need Fayne to get his confidence back and that has to be before we get too deep into April.
After missing the entire third period last night, Alexei Ponikarovsky was not present at Wednesday’s practice. His injury, along with the return of Andrei Loktionov to practice, forced Pete DeBoer to use some line combinations we’ve seen before.
I’m sure many Devils fans are happy to see the return of the CBGB line, although all of this was necessitated by the injuries to Ponikarovsky and Dainius Zubrus. Once those two return, unless the Devils want Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac or Loktionov to center the fourth line (they don’t), then I wouldn’t expect that line to appear except for certain points when DeBoer maybe wants to give the whole team a spark. Also, DeBoer really dislikes using Henrique on the wing and only uses him there when he has to. Assuming Poni isn’t seriously hurt, I’d expect him to return to that spot until Zubrus is healthy, at which point all bets are off in terms of line combos. We’ll have to see how serious the injury to Ponikarovsky is later today once DeBoer addresses the media. If he’s out for tomorrow’s game, I’d be willing to bet these are the lines we’ll see against Carolina.
These two notes from practice today. First, on whether Harri Pesonen will get into the lineup tonight:
Second, on tonight’s goalie:
At this point, we all know it’s going to be Hedberg unless he gets hurt, but no one should be surprised by the Pesonen news. With a desperate Flyers team coming to town, there’s no way DeBoer’s team is taking the ice without Krys Barch in the lineup. It’s one of the few games where he actually matters.
As the Devils return home for the second half of a back-to-back, coach Pete DeBoer elected to make a few lineup changes — at least one of which was initiated by the health of captain Bryce Salvador.
We’ll have more on these changes in our game preview shortly.
This sudden change came during warmups Thursday:
Fayne was scheduled to be a healthy scratch along with Adam Larsson, but apparently Tallinder was unable to go at the last minute. We’ll let you know more on his status as soon as the information becomes available.
Whether you think the Devils are or aren’t in trouble, there’s one thing we all agree on: New Jersey’s forwards are producing far too little offense. In response, coach Pete DeBoer has tried all manner of different line combinations to jump-start his offense. With none of those changes working for more than a shift or two, DeBoer went all the way back at today’s morning skate.
We haven’t seen those top two line combos since the first games following the Ponikarovsky trade. But wait! There’s changes afoot on the back end, too.
There’s a lot of thoughts that come to mind. First of which, is the fact that the Elias-Clarkson breakup lasted all of one game. I still would have liked to see what Elias could do with Kovy over time, but the Devils don’t have a ton of time to wait for their first line to start clicking. Poni and Kovy have solid chemistry and having Zajac and Poni next to him will help Kovy maintain his “puppet master” role, controlling the play and shooting when he sees an opportunity. I’m intrigued by the third and fourth lines. I’m curious to see whether Kostopoulos can duplicate Steve Bernier’s role on the CBGB line, allowing the Devils to legitimately roll all four lines at any time, instead of having to hide one or two players after the first period. The the thing that concerns me is Loktionov’s offensive potential being somewhat wasted on the third line, but that said, it’s hard to prioritize him over guys like Zajac and Henrique, who should have plenty of chances to create and finish chances in between Batman and Robin.
As for the defense, well, I’m happy to see Harrold finally get a shot. For one, it’s about time the Devils injected some sort of “fresh legs” into their defensive corps. Secondly, he can’t play much worse than what we’ve seen from some of the Devils’ defensemen over the past few games. That said, sitting Larsson seems short-sighted to me. No, he hasn’t been perfect, but he’s a better play than either Volchenkov or Tallinder. That Salvador-Volchenkov pairing terrifies me already. All I can hope is this is a situation of DeBoer wanting Larsson to take a rest and see things from a different angle to potentially correct some of the mistakes he’s making on a consistent basis. If this turns into another Larsson Watch, oh boy.
With no morning skate, the Devils were late to announce their lineup for tonight’s game. Johan Hedberg will get the start in net despite his recent struggles and the recently called-up Cam Janssen will replace Stefan Matteau and join fellow Bash Brother Krys Barch in the lineup.
I imagine DeBoer’s lineup decision led to a scene similar to this in the home locker room of the Prudential Center: