With the Devils having stopped their “skid” with a win out on the Island on Sunday, they’ll get their first taste of the new-look Rangers tonight. The Devils, however, are beginning to resemble the team we thought we’d see entering the season. How do I mean? Take a look at the line combinations from today’s morning skate.
Forwards: Dainius Zubrus-Travis Zajac-Ilya Kovalchuk; Patrik Elias-Adam Henrique-David Clarkson; Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier; Krys Barch-Jacob Josefson-Bobby Butler, Stefan Matteau, Mathieu Darche.
Defensemen: Bryce Salvador-Mark Fayne; Andy Greene-Adam Larsson; Anton Volchenkov-Marek Zidlicky; Henrik Tallinder-Peter Harrold.
Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg.
Corey GriffinOnce it became clear the Devils didn’t intend to add pieces via trade of free agency (at least immediately, it’s safe to say these are the lines we thought we’d end up seeing. Pete DeBoer tried Henrique on the top line over the last couple of games, both at LW and C, but I don’t think he wants to give up on the Zajac-Kovy chemistry that was evident earlier in the year. As for Zubrus, first line LW always seemed the most natural fit for him give the Devils’ current roster and the undeniable chemistry between Elias and Clarkson. I don’t love the use of one-note players like Barch, but against the Rangers, the Devils will need to dress at least one fighter. The Butler-Josefson combo is interesting, but I’m uncertain how useful Butler can be with a 10-minute fourth-line role.
I didn’t get to write this Sunday, but I’m very happy DeBoer split up Zidlicky and Salvador. I really think Zidlicky’s best role is that one third-pair defenseman and power-play specialist. Larsson is a better two-way player and deserves more ice time for that reason alone, if not for potential’s sake. I didn’t like the idea of Fayne coming out for Larsson, but as DeBoer has said, that’s a tricky situation to navigate given how many NHL defensemen they have. In the end, Tallinder always seemed destined to be the odd man out, although I still suspect he’ll play his fair share of games.