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Posted On Friday, 02.15.2013 / 11:55 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Ponikarovsky happy to be back in familiar place

NEWARK, N.J. -- Left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky returned to the ice for the New Jersey Devils during Friday's morning skate at Prudential Center and will be in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET).

Ponikarovsky, acquired by the Devils on Wednesday in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a pair of draft picks -- a 2013 seventh-round pick and a 2014 fourth-round selection -- arrived in New Jersey on Thursday. He'll wear No. 12 and begin the game skating on the top line, with center Travis Zajac and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk.

It's Ponikarovsky's second stint with the Devils. The team acquired him in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes in January 2012, and he had 18 points in 33 regular-season games, and a goal and eight assists in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games. During the playoffs, he often skated on a line with Zajac and Kovalchuk

He signed with the Jets in July, and had two goals in 12 games.

"It's not too much time gone by [since I last played with the Devils] and it should be not too tough for me to fit in again," Ponikarovsky said. "What did I think when I got the news that I'd be coming back? I knew the team and system of the team I would be coming to play for and it was a feeling like I kind of never left."

Posted On Tuesday, 02.12.2013 / 11:48 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Hurricanes look to finish road trip on a high

NEWARK, N.J. -- Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller opted to give his players the morning off Tuesday following a big road victory against the New York Islanders less than 24 hours earlier.

The Hurricanes, who now sit atop the Southeast Division and are third in the Eastern Conference, are 3-1-1 on their six-game road trip, which concludes Tuesday against the conference-leading New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

"I think our game against the Islanders might have been our best game of the whole road trip," Muller told reporters Monday after his team's 6-4 victory. "We just keep finding ways to win right now."

Posted On Tuesday, 02.12.2013 / 11:39 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Fayne skips skate, but will be in Devils' lineup

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils will look to continue their winning ways Tuesday when they play host to Carolina Hurricanes at Prudential Center.

The Devils enter Tuesday's game riding a five-game winning streak and are first in Eastern Conference with 19 points, two ahead of the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins. The Bruins face the New York Rangers on Tuesday at TD Garden.

There doesn't appear to be any lineup changes in store for the Devils, although defenseman Mark Fayne was absent from the team's morning skate due to a death in his family. He was replaced by Peter Harrold during New Jersey's brisk 30-minute workout, but coach Peter DeBoer said he expects Fayne to be in the lineup alongside captain Bryce Salvador against the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes on Tuesday.

Forward Dainius Zubrus will miss his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury. Zubrus was hurt during a 3-1 victory against the Rangers on Feb. 5.

Posted On Thursday, 02.07.2013 / 12:08 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Zubrus out, Matteau in for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils will be without the services of left wing Dainius Zubrus on Thursday for their matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning at Prudential Center.

Zubrus, who has one goal and four points in nine games this season for New Jersey (5-1-3), will be sidelined with an upper-body injury. There is no timetable on his return to the lineup.

During the morning skate Thursday, coach Peter DeBoer had rookie Stefan Matteau playing left wing with center Travis Zajac and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk. The second line had Adam Henrique with wings Patrik Elias and David Clarkson.

Matteau will suit up Thursday against the Lightning, his sixth game with the club this season, meaning his entry-level contract will kick in. If Matteau didn't play in a sixth game with the Devils this season, the organization would save a year on his entry-level deal.

In five games with New Jersey, Matteau didn't record a point, sported a plus-one rating and has averaged 8:28 in ice time. He did open his last two games on the team's top line alongside center Travis Zajac and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk while Adam Henrique was recovering from thumb surgery, but was eventually moved to the fourth unit.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mikemorrealeNHL

Posted On Tuesday, 02.05.2013 / 11:52 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

DeBoer putting Zajac back on top line with Kovalchuk

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer will tweak his top two lines in preparation for the New York Rangers on Tuesday at Prudential Center.

During the team's morning skate, DeBoer flipped centermen Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique. Zajac was working the top unit alongside Dainius Zubrus and Ilya Kovalchuk. Henrique, meanwhile, was between Patrik Elias and David Clarkson. Henrique skated with Zubrus and Kovalchuk in New Jersey's 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Sunday.

Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 12:41 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Islanders slot Boulton in for suspended McDonald

NEWARK, N.J. -- Eric Boulton, who signed a free-agent contract with the New York Islanders in July after spending last season with the New Jersey Devils, will be in the lineup on Thursday against his former team at Prudential Center.

Boulton is in the lineup for suspended Islanders right wing Colin McDonald. McDonald is serving the first of a two-game suspension for an illegal hit that occurred in his team's 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.

Boulton has no points and no penalty minutes in two games for the Islanders this season. He had no points and racked up 115 penalty minutes in 51 appearances for the Devils last season. In 602 career games in the NHL, the 6-foot, 224-pound enforcer has 73 points and 1,265 PIM.

The Islanders will conclude a five-game road trip on Thursday and are currently 2-1-1 away from the Nassau Coliseum. The club will play its next two games at home, against the Devils on Sunday and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, before visiting Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers on Feb. 7.

The Islanders held an optional skate at Prudential Center on Thursday afternoon in preparation for their game against the Devils. Evgeni Nabokov (3-1-1, 2.99 goals-against average, .912 save percentage) will get the start between the pipes for the visitors. In nine career games against the Devils, the 37-year-old Nabokov is 2-7-0 with a 3.43 GAA and .869 save percentage.

Here are the possible line combinations for the Islanders:

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Brad Boyes

David Ullstrom - Keith Aucoin - Casey Cizikas

Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Eric Boulton

Mark Streit - Brian Strait

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey - Matt Carkner

Evgeni Nabokov

Rick DiPietro

Injured: Josh Bailey, Jesse Joensuu

Suspended: Colin McDonald

Scratched: Joe Finley, Radek Martinek

Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 11:58 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Henrique, Larsson to make season debuts for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils will see two familiar faces returning to the lineup on Thursday when center Adam Henrique and defenseman Adam Larsson make their season debut against the New York Islanders at Prudential Center.

The plan is for Henrique to open the game on a line with wings Krystofer Barch and Matt Anderson. Larsson will be paired with Andy Greene. Larsson will be replacing injured Mark Fayne (arm).

"I thought we did a great job as a group in stepping up while [Henrique] was out, but he's a big part of our team and now we can start to slot people in the right spots," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We will start him on the fourth line, but I'm sure, knowing him, that's not going to last for long."

Henrique, who underwent surgery on Nov. 29 to reattach the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb, began skating with the team again on Friday. He suffered his injury on Nov. 25 while playing for the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Albany.

"Right now, first game, I'm not going to look too far ahead," Henrique said. "It's difficult going from skating on your own, to a couple of guys and then getting into a game. It's a different speed. I'm sure it will take a little bit to just get back to normal. But I fully expect my game to be where it was last year and down the stretch. I'm excited to be back and around the guys."

In 74 games last season for the Devils, Henrique, a 2012 Calder Trophy finalist, had 16 goals, 51 points and a plus-8 rating. He also led the team with four shorthanded goals and won 48.8 percent of his faceoffs.

Greene is looking forward to having Larsson as a partner against the Islanders.

"It's exciting for [Larsson] to get back in because he's worked extremely hard this year being down in Albany and being able to play," Greene told "He hasn't been in an NHL game in a while, but he'll be ready and sure he'll be looking forward to it."

Larsson played in 65 games as a rookie last season with the Devils, producing two goals, 18 points and a minus-7 rating. He finished the season tied for second among NHL rookie defensemen with 16 assists.

"I'm not putting any pressure on myself … I know my game and I'm not going to change anything just because I sat out for the first five games," Larsson said. "Getting back into it with a partner like Andy Greene will help me. He's been really good so far, so that's going to help me for sure."

Meanwhile, Devils rookie Stefan Matteau will be a healthy scratch for the contest.

The question on everyone's mind, of course, is whether or not Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello intends to keep Matteau on the roster now that his five-game tryout has concluded.

Lamoriello told reporters on Wednesday that Matteau would remain with the club for the time being and not be returned to his junior team, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior League. If Matteau suits up for another NHL game, it would mark his sixth game with the Devils and his entry-level contract would officially kick in. If Lamoriello opts to return him to juniors before playing a sixth game, the organization would save a year.

"I think Lou said it best [on Wednesday], that he'll stay as long as he belongs here and we feel he's getting better, so it's a day-to-day thing," DeBoer said.

Lamoriello said the decision regarding Matteau would not come down to whether they could save a year on his contract. Instead, it's all about Matteau, and what would best benefit his development with the organization.

"He will not be going back immediately and we're not going to let his contract status get in the way," Lamoriello said Wednesday. "We're going to continue evaluating this and a decision won't be made at this point."

Matteau has yet to record a point in five games, sports a plus-1 rating and has averaged 8:28 in ice time. He's also opened the last two road games on the team's top line alongside center Travis Zajac and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk.

Here are the possible line combinations for the Devils against the Islanders:

Jacob Josefson - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk

Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson

Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Krystofer Barch - Adam Henrique - Matt Anderson

Bryce SalvadorMarek Zidlicky

Henrik TallinderAnton Volchenkov

Andy GreeneAdam Larsson

Martin Brodeur

Johan Hedberg

Injured: Mark Fayne

Scratched: Peter Harrold, Stefan Matteau

Posted On Wednesday, 01.30.2013 / 1:04 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2013 NHL Draft blog

Central Scouting notes three prospects on rise

In addition to profiling many of the top prospects on the radar of NHL scouts leading up to the 2013 NHL Draft in Newark, N.J., it's always interesting to learn of those performers shooting up the ranks in recent weeks.

             Samuel Morin, Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL

NHL Central Scouting occasionally provides team scouts and general managers a list of potential draft prospects outside the top 30 on the midterm rankings release for North American skaters that have shown great improvement. So without further delay, here are three players gaining steam according to those tireless travelers at Central Scouting.

Samuel Morin, Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL -- The 6-foot-6, 203-pound defenseman, who participated in the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game earlier this month, is in his second season with the Oceanic. He's already established career highs with four goals, 12 assists, 16 points and a plus-10 rating in 45 games. Unfortunately, Morin will be sidelined 6-8 weeks with an upper-body injury.

"Samuel has shown overall improvement … his skating is fluid and his ability to stay on top of the play has helped enhance his game," NHL Central Scouting Director Dan Marr told "He's gained more confidence with playing time. But we're noticing how much more comfortable he is handling and moving the puck under pressure; that's something we didn't see in him before."

Posted On Friday, 01.25.2013 / 12:42 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Capitals aiming to avoid an 0-4 start

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Washington Capitals conducted an optional skate Friday afternoon at Prudential Center in the wake of their third straight loss to open the 2012-13 season to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday at Verizon Center.

Washington coach Adam Oates will look to avoid an 0-4 start against the New Jersey Devils, for whom he served as an assistant under Peter DeBoer in 2011-12. The Capitals are winless in their first three games for the first time since 1993-94.

Capitals defenseman Mike Green is glad the team will be right back on the ice following Thursday's disappointing 4-1 loss on home ice.

"It's good to get right back after it, especially after a loss like that [against Montreal]," Green told "The way the last three games have gone, you can put it in the past right away and not dwell on it. This will be a good test for us. [The Devils] are playing well and we play similar systems, so it'll be a battle of attrition out there until the end."

The Capitals are the only team remaining in the NHL without a point and have been outscored 14-6. They've led for 2:32 in three games or 180 minutes, are 2-for-12 (16.6 percent) on the power play and have allowed seven power-play goals in 18 times short (61.1 percent penalty kill).

"You have to make your own opportunities ... we have to earn it," Green said. "I don't think we've earned it yet. For whatever reason, and there could be a lot of excuses with the season starting in January, but there's no excuse. We have to earn everything we get and it starts against New Jersey."

On top of the losing streak, Alex Ovechkin, who was inserted on right wing for the first time in Thursday's loss, has also struggled. The Capitals captain has taken a team-high 11 shots, but has one assist and a minus-1 rating for the season.

It appears as though Michal Neuvirth, who made 18 saves in the loss to Montreal on Thursday, will get his second straight start for Washington. New Jersey will counter with Martin Brodeur (2-0-0, 0.50 goals-against average, .977 save percentage).

Here are the possible line combinations for the Capitals:

Wojtek WolskiNicklas BackstromAlex Ovechkin

Matt HendricksMike RibeiroTroy Brouwer

Jason ChimeraJay BeagleJoel Ward

Marcus JohanssonMathieu PerreaultJoey Crabb

Karl AlznerJohn Carlson

Tom PotiMike Green

Roman HamrlikTomas Kundratek

Michal Neuvirth

Braden Holtby

Posted On Friday, 01.25.2013 / 12:03 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Henrique joins Devils for morning skate

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils received a pleasant surprise at their morning skate Friday in preparation for their game with the winless Washington Capitals at Prudential Center.

Adam Henrique, who is recovering from Nov. 29 surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb, joined his teammates for the first time on the ice since suffering the injury. Though Henrique remains seven to 10 days away from returning to the lineup, he said it was nice to be skating with his teammates again.

"It's a big morale boost for me just to be around the guys," Henrique said. "I think a lot of other guys would say the same thing when they're hurt. It's tough watching games."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer doesn't expect Henrique to make the trip with the team to play the Montreal Canadiens (Sunday) and Boston Bruins (Tuesday). The 2012 Calder Trophy finalist said he's still not shooting at full strength, something he'll need to do before participating in a regular-season contest.

Still, Henrique is excited that the Devils (2-0-0) have opened the season with two successive victories.

"It's great to see that … I felt the guys played a solid game throughout [against the New York Islanders on Saturday]," he said. "There's always areas to improve and it was a big win against Philadelphia [on Tuesday]; those are always huge games. The guys look good and with the shortened season you need a good start and push, and hopefully by the time I get back I can help."

Henrique said he's not going to pinpoint a certain game on the schedule to make his return; rather, he'll take it day by day.

"I need to get the strength in there for shooting and handling the puck on the ice," he said. "It's different from going to skating with no pucks to handling the puck and then getting back to practice with the guys. We're on the right track and on schedule to where we've expected things to be."

Henrique skated with fourth-liners Krystofer Barch, who will make his Devils' debut against the Capitals, and Cam Janssen, who will be a healthy scratch.

Henrique was injured while playing for the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Albany on Nov. 25 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He resumed skating last Wednesday, but this was his first time on the ice with the team.

"It was great to see him back," DeBoer said. "He's a big part of our team and our lineup. It just allows you, assuming you stay healthy, to put guys in better positions for success."

DeBoer will make a few line adjustments against the Capitals. Mattias Tedenby will move up to left wing on the top line with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk, while Dainius Zubrus, who skated with Zajac and Kovalchuk in the first two games, will be with Patrik Elias and David Clarkson.

Barch, a healthy scratch the first two games, will take Janssen’s place on the fourth line with Stefan Matteau and Jacob Josefson. Matteau has moved to the right wing, though, and Barch is skating at left wing.

Barch, who signed with the Devils as an unrestricted free agent last summer, is looking forward to his season debut.

"He's a guy with no exhibition game and I haven't really seen him up close so I want to get him in a game and see what he could do," DeBoer said. "I'm sure he'll bring energy, speed and physicality."

The Devils will be looking to start a season with three straight wins for the first time since 2002-03.

Here's what the Devils lineup should look like against the Capitals:

Mattias Tedenby - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk

Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson

Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Stefan Matteau - Jacob Josefson - Krystofer Barch

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Henrik Tallinder - Anton Volchenkov

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne

Martin Brodeur

Johan Hedberg

Injured: Adam Henrique

Scratched: Adam Larsson, Peter Harrold, Cam Janssen

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Well, for me this one's concerning, the way we performed. Because three games in, playing a desperate team on the road, I was expecting something else than this. Right now, I'm just disappointed. The other games, I thought we did some things that you can build off your game. There wasn't a lot accomplished in tonight's game.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards after a 4-2 loss to the Sabres on Monday dropped Columbus to 0-3-0
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