In one of the better signs the Devils have had recently, the team saw three of its injured players participate in practice Thursday.
The Devils have been pretty nonchalant about the injuries to Gionta and Salvador, so their participation isn’t that surprising. However, it was looking like Ponikarovsky might not make an appearance until the team returned home from Florida. We’ll have to see what Pete DeBoer says after practice (the team is running a double session after two days off) about their status for tomorrow’s game against the Lightning, but I’d guess at least Gionta and Salvador are likely to play. We’ll see about Poni, who won’t make some massive impact but will help the Devils stretch out their lines like DeBoer prefers.
Adam Larsson finally got a chance to dress Thursday night after Mark Fayne sustained a minor upper-body injury Tuesday against Boston. After taking a game off, Fayne says he’s good to go, but what will Pete DeBoer do about Larsson?
This decision would like be a lot easier if Larsson had played terribly last night — except the young Swede did just the opposite according to DeBoer, further complicating matters.
The question of whether Fayne and Larsson are tied together is a fair one. If it were any other coach, I’d call Fayne’s injury a convenient excuse to finally play Larsson and end the “When will he play?” drama. Except with DeBoer, you get the sense he means what he says despite some occasional double-talk regarding line pairing suggestions from media members. DeBoer didn’t play Larsson because he didn’t think he was one of the best six defensemen on the current roster, but kept him here because he is “an NHL defenseman,” to use the coach’s words. Aside from that unfortunate deflection, Larsson certainly played that part last night pretty well. He didn’t look like he was forcing anything. He didn’t try to score a goal every time he had the puck. He played within himself and within the Devils’ system and maybe a couple of key plays, including a poke check during the second period that halted an 3-on-2 rush dead in its tracks.
If you ask me, put them both in. Give Zidlicky a night off maybe, or maybe rest Volchenkov. Keep Larsson with Greene and play Fayne in the vacant spot. If you rest Zidlicky after all his stupid penalties, why not give Larsson a shot on the point of the power play? It certainly can’t hurt — not with how passive and backwards the man advantage looked last night. I don’t think these two should be tied together because I think Fayne and Larsson should be in the lineup every night, but if you read this blog, you know that already.
Travis Zajac has been out due to soreness in his achilles that he had surgery on this offseason. He is expected to return to the lineup tomorrow when the Devils take on the Oilers in Edmonton. He will not be playing tonight against Calgary.