Greetings from the Prudential Center on this wonderful Thursday morning. The Devils had a morning skate prior to tonight’s game against the New York Islanders, which, believe it or not, is a battle for first place in the Atlantic Division. It’s only been five games, but who woulda thunk that before the season started? Just goes to show the Devils play in the toughest division in hockey.
There were a couple of notable participants in the skate this morning: Adam Henrique and Stefan Matteau. Now, as of press time (10:40ish a.m.), neither player is locked in to playing tonight, or in Matteau’s case, locked in to staying in the NHL this season. Still, in Henrique’s case, it’s a clear sign that he’s as close to returning as he’s been all season. We’ll just have to see if he’s in the lineup tonight.
The Devils defensemen worked on taking shots from the point while the forwards ran dump and support drill that saw one man chase a puck into the corner while the other circled back around the faceoff dot and into the slot. The Devils continue to work on different aspects of their forecheck in every practice I’ve been to, and rightfully so. It’s one of the most important parts of their game — if not the most important.
Unfortunately, I missed the early part of the skate (thanks L train), but here’s the lines from this morning that show Henrique centering the fourth line and Matteau as one of the extra forwards, meaning the Devils likely don’t plan to use him in a sixth game and activate the first year of his entry-level contract.
Via Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice:
Jacob Josefson-Travis Zajac-Ilya Kovalchuk
Dainius Zubrus-Patrik Elias-David Clarkson
Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier
Matt Anderson-Adam Henrique-Krys Barch
Extras: Stefan Matteau, Mathieu Darche.
There were no defensive pairings, but everyone skated. There was no evidence that Adam Larsson will get in the lineup after two losses. Also, expect Martin Brodeur back in net tonight.
Stay tuned for more updates.
The Devils were back at it this morning, preparing for tomorrow’s game against old friend Adam Oates, the new coach of the Washington Capitals.
Here’s today’s forwards with an interesting swap of LWs. I’ll update this thread as we go along today.
UPDATE: Devils did some power play work at the end of practice today after a 1-for-9 start in the first two games under assistant coach Matt Shaw. I missed the line combos, but according to Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice, Elias skated with Clarkson and Zajac on the top unit with Zidlicky and Kovy at the points. The second unit featured Zubrus, Bernier and Josefson with Greene and Tallinder on the points.
UPDATE2: DeBoer said he wasn’t sure if these lines will stick tomorrow. Said he planned to meet with his staff this afternoon and figure it out from there.
Travis Zajac had a full practice with the team today. Zajac was recovering from Achillies tendon surgery he had over the summer in an offseason incident. He is suspected to be in the lineup by Christmas but could be back in the lineup as early as next week.
Ilya Kovalchuk practiced with the team today in Boston. Kovalchuk was skating as an extra forward in the beginning. He also had worked with both power play units playing the left point. The Devils take on the Boston Bruins tonight and it is still unsure if Kovalchuk will be in the lineup tonight.
Again Ilya Kovalchuk missed practice this afternoon. He has been sidelined since November 3rd when he left the game in the 3rd period with what is being called a lower body injury. It was suspected that he may practice today but it did not happen. He is not ruled out for Friday against the Washington Capitals.
Martin Brodeur is going to start tonight for the Devils at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Brodeur is coming off a shoulder injury that has kept him out since October 13th. Brodeur made the trip out west last week in hopes of coming back but was still not feeling well enough to dress. It should be interesting to see how Brodeur plays against the Leafs who are one of the hotter teams in the NHL.
Zach Parise is no longer center on the top line. He is moving back to left wing. Adam Henrique will be centering. Kovalchuk will be playing right wing.
Lines during practice were:
There were no changes to the defensive pairings. The scratches for tonight’s game are Rod Pelley, Eric Boulton and Mark Fraser.
The practice lines were shaken up today. The lines were:
Extra: Pelley, Mills
The defensive pairings were:
Goalies: Brodeur, Hedberg.
Eric Boulton returned to practice after hurting his hand in fight with San Jose Sharks’ defenseman Douglas Murray.
Martin Brodeur says that he is okay to play on Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. However nothing is set in stone at the moment. With two consecutive games on Wednesday and Thursday one could figure that Brodeur is going to play one of them.
Scary moment today when Patrik Elias left the ice hobbling during practice from Anton Volchenkov stepping on the outside of his left ankle. Elias said after practice, “I was just milking it.” Everyone breath a sigh of relief.