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Brunner, Harrold return to practice

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Coach Peter DeBoer had something Monday that he's seen little of this season: a healthy Devils group on the ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion.

Damien Brunner and Peter Harrold were back in the practice mix, with Brunner a possibility for Tuesday's meeting with the St. Louis Blues at Prudential Center.

Brunner skated on a line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus, while Harrold was paired with Anton Volchenkov.

"It was nice," DeBoer said. "It really gave us a shot of energy. Having a good practice, first off, we haven't had one in awhile with four-and-a-half lines and eight defensemen, so it was good."

Cory Schneider will start Tuesday for the Devils (20-19-11), who are back home after going 1-1-2 on their recent four-game trip. They host Washington on Friday, then face the Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Sunday

DeBoer's club has already lost 202 man-games to injury through the first 50 games of 2013-14, and a clean bill of health could be just the boost they need heading into the final nine games before the Olympic break

"I'm a glass half-full guy," said the coach. "I think the half-full part is we've survived some tough injuries to key positions, top-six forwards, our captain [Bryce Salvador] out for a long time. We haven't had an easy schedule, we've played the most road games in the conference, and we have stayed in it.

"We have to make a move, though. You can't hang your hat on that for much longer. We've got to start to gain some ground here."

Brunner, out for the last 14 games, suffered a lower body injury on Dec. 20, when he was hit by Anaheim's Mark Fistric. DeBoer said "there's a good chance" Brunner will be cleared for Tuesday's game.

"At the end of the day, I'm happy it was only four weeks," Brunner said of the time he missed. "Progress was good, no pain now. I think I'm good to go."

Brunner has eight goals and five assists in 32 games and was just starting to heat up with four goals and an assist in the four games before the injury.

"Injury's never fun, but it helped maybe a little bit to go through it knowing that I played some good games before I got injured," he said. "It just makes you focus, maybe, a couple of percent per day harder to get back and get right back at this level.

Harrold (non-displaced foot fracture, 19 games missed) has been sidelined since Dec. 7, when he collided with the goalpost while backchecking against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

"He's in the same mix as everyone else," DeBoer said. "He looks good, he has full clearance, he'll practice and we'll see every morning how he feels when he wakes up."

The Devils expect a tough challenge from the Blues (32-10-5), who rank second in the NHL with 3.45 goals per game and third with 2.23 goals against.

"They're one of the stingiest teams defensively, so you can't make any mistakes," Schneider said. "On my end, I can't give them any free goals and put us down or put us in a situation where we need to score two or three times, because they're pretty elite defensively.

"This year they've added a dimension of offense to their game. They've always been a solid team; this year they seem to be scoring a lot more than in the past. We're going to have our hands full at both ends of the ice, so it's going to be a good test."

• The Devils announced Monday that Cam Janssen was placed on waivers.

Monday's practice lines:

Reid Boucher - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner
Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Jacob Josefson - Andrei Loktionov

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill

Martin Brodeur
Cory Schneider

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