The New Jersey Devils are closer than they've been in a while to having a fully healthy lineup on the ice, as Monday marks the return of both Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall.
"It's big," Hall said. "That's what you want, your team to be as healthy as possible. Now it's about getting our guys to play well together. Just because you're healthy doesn't mean that the points are going to come immediately. You have to play a certain way. That's how we have to come back in here and insert ourselves into the lineup."
Hall returns from a knee contusion that kept him out of the lineup for two games, while Palmieri missed 12 games with a broken foot.
Hall is relieved to have only missed a pair of games.
"You get hit like that and my immediate reaction was, 'I hope I didn't tear anything or blow my knee out,'" he said. "To just miss a couple of games and have the guys play so well, it's a pretty good feeling to try and come back to play when the guys are playing so well. Hopefully we can fit in, and my knee feels good."
Both Palmieri and Hall will take their places on the top line wings with Nico Hischier as their center.
Head coach John Hynes is pleased to have so many players to work with up front at practice, with Johansson also back on the ice, though not quite ready to play.
When it comes to performing in-game, he doesn't want to see anyone take their foot off the gas despite reinforcements stepping in.
"Our test was last week," Hynes said. "We had guys out of the lineup. It's not about who's out, it's about who's in and how they play. Just because we feel like we're getting players back doesn't mean that we're a better team. It's only a better team if the players that come in, come in and play with the same commitment level as the guys that played this past week. And the guys are in the lineup, and let up and think we're a better team."
The game Monday night also marks the first time the Devils will face off against the Ducks since trading for defensemen Sami Vatanen and sending forwards Adam Henrique and Joseph Blandisi to Anaheim. Both Vatanen and Henrique will be on the ice tonight at Prudential Center.
Vatanen admitted it will be a bit strange at first.
"Seeing those faces that I played with all the time - I hope I don't pass the puck to them," Vatanen said jokingly. "Pass it to our guys.
"… It's something new for me. I've never done that before. You see so many faces you know. … but I think when you jump on the ice, it's going to be normal."
Cory Schneider will get a fourth consecutive start after posting his 13th win of the season last Friday.
Jimmy Hayes will be out of the lineup, which is expected to look as follows: