Lineup Changes: Tallinder In For Larsson

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.

https://twitter.com/NHLDevilsPR/status/321996163790282752

Corey Griffin

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.

Postgame Thoughts: Sabres 3, Devils 2 S/O (4/7/13)

Pat Pickens

The forecheck was as strong as it had been all year.

Marek Zidlicky played his best game this season. The Devils outshot the Buffalo Sabres 39-22 and even scored a power-play goal.

Yet, all that still couldn’t translate into a win.

Such are the breaks for New Jersey these days. The Devils got a key point– No. 40– but fell to 0-6 in road shootouts in their 3-2 shootout loss to the Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Steve Sullivan and Mark Fayne each scored goals for New Jersey, which fell to 0-3-4 in its last seven games. Sullivan’s was his first as a Devil since Feb. 15, 1997. Fayne’s was his first of this season and his first since Feb. 21 of last year.

Still it wasn’t enough as Ryan Miller made 37 saves to lift the Sabres within four points of the East’s final-playoff spot. Miller stopped all three shootout chances– including a stellar pad save on Patrik Elias’ attempt– to drop New Jersey to 0-6 in road shootouts this year.

The Devils will probably say the same things they said after Thursday and Saturday’s losses. They played well enough to win but didn’t catch the breaks. I can’t disagree, but that and 12 cents doesn’t buy you much this time of the year.

Zidlicky was outstanding all night.

He finished with five shots– which was tied with David Clarkson for the team high. He pinched at the right time most of the night, helping the Devils forecheck and dominate possession in Buffalo’s end for large pockets of time.

Zidlicky finished as a minus-1, he was stuck covering for Anton Volchenkov on Steve Ott’s second-period marker.

Jacob Josefson, playing in his first game in more than a month, was very good too. He showed great legs and energy and won a team-high 64 percent (9 of 14) of his faceoffs.

Like the rest of the team, Josefson unluckily finished as a minus player. He was on the ice for Patrick Kaleta’s first-period goal, which dropped him to a team-worst minus-11.

On Kaleta’s goal, Andy Greene had a dreadful shift. First, his blind pass turned the puck over to Jochen Hecht at the top of the circles. Then, Greene was beaten to the net mouth by Kaleta, as he redirected Hecht’s shot past Brodeur, giving Buffalo the 1-0 lead just 4:22 in.

The Devils appeared listless until that goal but pushed back after it, dominating the rest of the first. The Devils’ forecheck drew a boarding minor on Kevin Porter, then Sullivan struck– on a neat feed from Steve Bernier– tying the game at 1 at 18:20.

Sullivan’s power-play goal was New Jersey’s first in six games. The Devils finished 1-for-5 with the man advantage.

With New Jersey’s playoff hopes hanging in the balance, Dainius Zubrus came up big.

The Devils were trailing 2-1 and were shorthanded with less than 15 minutes left. Zubrus took the puck, weaved through four Sabres, and found Fayne at the top of the circles with a stellar pass. Fayne beat Miller stick side to tie the game.

Fayne’s mark also allowed New Jersey to score more than one goal for the first time in three games. The Devils had scored two goals in their previous three contests.

Though he stopped 13 fewer shots than his counterpart, Martin Brodeur was good in some key spots.

Brodeur stoned Drew Stafford’s chance on a two-on-one break in overtime, and he also thwarted Christian Ehrhoff’s point shot earlier in the extra session.

Brodeur nearly stopped Ott’s second-period goal, sliding and kicking his pads in the air. The puck appeared to hit Brodeur’s pad and trickle across the goal line.

Miller was great too though. The American-born netminder made key save after key save– his best coming on Bernier midway through the second, when he stoned Bernier’s low shot with his blocker.

He also gloved Travis Zajac’s final attempt in the shootout, sealing Buffalo’s win.

The Devils are now two points behind the Rangers and Islanders for the East’s No. 8 spot.

New Jersey will now sit back and hope for some help this week as it awaits its next game, Wednesday at home against Boston.

The Rangers are in Toronto Monday. The Isles will host Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Gameday: Devils at Sabres (4/7/13)

Who: New Jersey Devils at Buffalo Sabres
When: 7:30 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: First Niagara Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
Media: TV – NBC Sports Network (Channel listings); Radio - WFAN (660 AM or 101.9 FM)
Twitter: @Pat_Pickens

Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)

  •  New Jersey is looking to end a season-high (tie, 0-5-1, February 23-March 5) six game losing streak (0-3-3) tonight.
  • Each of the first two meetings between the Devils and Sabres this season have gone to the shootout, with the home team winning both times. New Jersey is 0-5 in the shootout on the road this year.
  • The Devils will close-out their ninth of ten sets of back-to-back games tonight. New Jersey is now 2-5-2 in first games and 3-4-1 in second games when playing on consecutive dates.
  • The Devils have out shot their opponent in 17 of the past 19 games.
  • Adam Henrique has scored a goal in each game vs. Buffalo this season. He has 2g-5a-7pts in seven games vs. the Sabres in his career.
  • Martin Brodeur (16 saves) took the loss last night and is 2-3-3 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .900 save-percentage since returning to the lineup on March 21 at Carolina.

Expected Lineup

Forwards
Elias-Zajac-Sullivan
Zubrus-Loktionov-Clarkson
Henrique-Josefson-Kostopoulos
Carter-Gionta-Bernier

Defense
Salvador-Zidlicky
Greene-Fayne
Larsson-Volchenkov

Goalie
Brodeur

Inactives: Tallinder, Barch, Harrold, D’Agostini, Ponikarovsky

“A Spark”: Four players who did not play Saturday will take the lineup on Sunday night. Peter DeBoer told the press corps earlier, “We need to change things up, we need a spark.”

Jacob Josefson’s been nursing an upper-body injury and hasn’t played since Feb. 24. He’s minus-10 in 16 games and has only registered one point. Tom Kostopoulos, who was shaken up Monday against the Isles, returns after missing the last two games. He’s netted one goal in 13 games in New Jersey.

Obviously, the Devils are looking for offense, and that is what precipitated the moves. But these moves seem a little desperate.

Miller Time: Ryan Miller’s been among the reasons why Buffalo has moved within six points of the eighth-playoff spot. The 32-year-old netminder has stopped 54 of his last 57 shots he’s faced in two Buffalo wins. The Sabres rank ninth in the East with 102 goals, but they’ve been without leading-scorer Thomas Vanek and just traded their fourth-leading scorer Jason Pominville to Minnesota. Miller will have to keep playing strong for Buffalo to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot.

Score First: We said it last night, but New Jersey is 12-1-4 when it scores the first goal. There is no way to overstate how important the first goal is, especially for a team that has had trouble potting goals. If the Devils score first, they can simplify their game, relax and play less tense than they did last night at home. Perhaps the road will suit New Jersey nicely.

NEWS: Devils Recall Jacob Josefson

With roster limits disappearing, the Devils will start recalling some of their prospects over the next couple weeks. It started Friday with center Jacob Josefson, who just returned from a concussion.

The Devils sent Josefson down to Albany earlier in the year. He’ll likely sit and learn and could crack the lineup if one of the Devils’ centers need a night off, but I don’t expect him to get a ton of playing time.

BREAKING NEWS: Matteau Returned To Juniors

Stefan Matteau played just 5:11 of ice time in Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to Montreal.

Less than 24 hours later, according to Mikael Lalancette of Quebec’s TVA Sports, Matteau was shipped back to juniors on Sunday.

Matteau netted just one goal and had two assists in 17 games with New Jersey. The 19-year old was a healthy scratch for three straight games before Saturday and had not recorded a point since New Jersey’s loss in Buffalo on March 2.

As of 5:30 Sunday, the Devils had not announced any forwards to replace Matteau on their active roster.

UPDATE: (6:43 p.m)– The Devils public relations released a statement confirming Matteau’s return to Blainville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL.

I asked Albany Devils’ coach Rick Kowalsky if he knew whether his club was losing a forward with the move, and he said “I have no idea.”

Jacob Josefson has been an Albany scratch the last three games. I’m not sure if that pertains to this scenario, but it may.

NEWS: Devils Recall Sestito, Leave Josefson In Albany

The Devils said Tuesday they would recall a center from their affiliate in Albany to accompany the team to Winnipeg for Thursday’s game against the Jets. About that whole “center” thing…

Corey Griffin

I saw a tweet this morning from John Fischer of In Lou We Trust that just said “Tim Sestito? Ugh.” After a brief chuckle, I realized this move is about two things. Avoiding the obvious “filling out the roster” reason, the Devils called up Sestito to help with one thing: energy. The Devils have lacked it for long stretches during their current slump and have missed the energy that Ryan Carter used to bring as part of that third line. Will Sestito play more than seven minutes? Probably not, but during those seven or less minutes, he’ll forecheck and push the play and try to play with the kind of infectious energy that Pete DeBoer is hoping will spark the rest of the team. Of course, Sestito won’t do much of anything else, but that brings me to the second thing. Jacob Josefson is not coming up until he proves at the AHL that he deserves to be one of the Devils’ four NHL centers — or until there’s an injury that necessitates it. As I wrote yesterday, Josefson hasn’t shown nearly enough in the offensive end of the ice to justify bringing him back and yanking him game by game between the AHL and NHL isn’t going to help him either. Once Carter returns, which could be as early as tomorrow, Sestito is likely going back to Albany, so the Devils needed someone for a practice or maybe one game. Calling Josefson up for that limited timeframe wasn’t going to help him. Instead, it looks like Josefson (barring injury) will get an extended look in Albany while the Devils try to figure out what they have in the NHL.

Of course, once Dainius Zubrus return to the active roster, the Devils will have more roster shuffling to do, but those are posts for another day.

Roster Roundup: Carter Traveling, Kinkaid Up, Josefson Down

The Devils have made a few roster moves in the past two days, so I thought I would use this post to round them all up into one place.

  1. Ryan Carter will travel with the team to Winnipeg, but no decision has been made as to whether he’ll be activated off injured reserve in time to play Thursday.
  2. The Devils sent Jacob Josefson back down to AHL Albany on Monday, although Lou Lamoriello said Tuesday the Devils will recall a center from their AHL affiliate in time for Thursday’s game in Winnipeg. He wouldn’t specify whether it would be Josefson.
  3. Goalie Keith Kinkaid was called up from Albany as a practice goalie but will be added to the active roster with Martin Brodeur being place on IR. He will serve as Johan Hedberg’s backup on Thursday in Winnipeg.

Corey Griffin

Kinkaid will remain as long as Brodeur is sidelined, which still doesn’t sound like it will be a long time. Meanwhile, Josefson looks to be the odd man out here. If Carter can’t go Thursday, the Devils will need an additional center and Josefson makes the most sense. However, as soon as Carter is back, that center is likely Albany-bound once again. Josefson has no one to blame but himself for this situation. While he’s been solid defensively and has made some plays on the penalty kill, he’s been far too ineffective offensively give the ice time he was getting before shuffling between Albany and New Jersey. Unfortunately for Josefson, the Devils have three two-way centers better than him in Zajac, Henrique and Gionta/Carter and Andrei Loktionov has looked much better than Josefson in his brief time thus far. Wherever Josefson lands, he’ll have to start scoring goals or else it’s unlikely he’ll find any sort of significant role with the Devils this season.

NEWS: Devils Place Ryan Carter On IR

Corey Griffin

There’s two ways people might read this. One, Pete DeBoer wants forward flexibility and is tired of having to roll the same 12 forwards every game regardless of matchup or regardless of how they’re playing. Two, the Devils don’t really know how long Carter is going to be out and they can’t afford to go game to game with him on the roster.

Realistically, it’s a combination of both of those reads. DeBoer obviously needs roster flexibility because I can’t imagine he’s very happy throwing Krys Barch out every night. Also, can we just come out and call this a concussion? If it were the average “upper-body injury,” then the Devils would have some sort of official timeline or timetable for recovery. Whether they’d give it to us is another matter, but they would still have known before today if Carter was going to need to be placed on IR. The good news is Carter is eligible to be activated immediately, so if he makes a sudden recovery this week the Devils would still have the option to put him back in the lineup immediately.

As for Josefson, his recall makes sense because of the very flexibility I just mentioned. Josefson can play center or left wing, the latter of which is severely lacking with both Carter and Dainius Zubrus injured. DeBoer could use him on the LW of the fourth line alongside Andrei Loktionov or on the third line in Carter’s place, which is where he might fit best. Josefson is having major difficulty finishing before he was sent down, but on the third line he wouldn’t be expected to do more than forecheck, occasionally come in and take draws and be sound defensively — all of which he can do. The third line generates offense by working hard, not by scoring skill and I think he would make a nice temporary option there for as long as Carter is out. It would also allow DeBoer to mix and match Matteau and Barch on the fourth line depending on the matchup.

I would expect Josefson to be available for this afternoon’s game, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Depth Will Be The Devils’ Downfall This Season

Corey Griffin

The Devils have suffered two significant injuries in the past 10 days, first losing Dainius Zubrus to wrist surgery and then Ryan Carter to a likely concussion. Zubrus is out at least another three weeks and possibly as much as five, while Carter is sidelined for at least this weekend. These injuries have led me to seriously reconsider the Devils’ realistic ceiling for this season because of one major problem.

They Devils are so frighteningly shallow up front they’re one injury away from struggling to ice 12 NHL forwards.

Don’t believe me? It’s true. With both Carter and Zubrus on the shelf, both Stefan Matteau and Krys Barch are in the lineup tonight and there is no extra forward. Seriously. Since the Devils continue to carry eight defensemen, Carter is the 13th forward. If any of the top 12 get hurt tonight, either Carter would have to go on injured reserve or one of the defensemen will have to go.

The Devils knew this was an option to start. They knew keeping eight D-men could end up coming back to bite them, but instead of dealing one of them for a depth forward, they’ve decided to tough it out. It’s worked for the most part all season and the Devils have played much better than anyone expected. I personally think they’re one of the three best teams in the East right now along with Pittsburgh and Boston (Side note: Not buying Montreal, yet.). But they are standing on such dangerously thin ice that it terrifies me — and it should scare you, too.

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