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Holik on the mend, skates in Tuesday practice

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Holik is looking to return from a broken pinkie finger. – Reversing the trend that saw one player after another affected by injury, the Devils are slowly getting healthy again.

Bobby Holik became the latest Devil to return to the ice with the team, skating in Tuesday's practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion. Holik suffered a broken pinkie finger at Washington on Oct. 18 and has missed 17 games.

Holik was hurt just one game after Brian Rolston suffered a sprained ankle Oct. 16 in Atlanta. Rolston skated Monday in his first team practice since the injury, and could play as early as Thursday, when the Devils battle the Flyers in Philadelphia.  NJD Audio Spotlight: Brian Rolston 

John Madden is expected to return to the lineup after missing four games with a sore foot.

Head coach Brent Sutter said Holik will work on his conditioning and strength in practice before seeing game action. For the Devils, the four days off between contests has been just what the doctor ordered.

"It's been a good week. We really tried to manage our practices... to get the things that we need to get out of it," Sutter said. "It was specialty teams yesterday, today was battle drills... [Wednesday] we'll work on some other things that we feel we need to work on."

Should Rolston come back in Philly, Sutter said his top two lines of Patrik Elias-Dainius Zubrus-Brian Gionta and Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Jamie Langenbrunner will remain intact. Rolston skated Tuesday on a trio with Mike Rupp and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, while John Madden centered Jay Pandolfo and David Clarkson.

"It was a good test for [Rolston] today, because there were a lot of battles, so we'll see how he responds," Sutter said.

The Devils' stretch of five road games concludes Saturday in Montreal, and the team plays three games in four nights at Prudential Center beginning with Pittsburgh on Dec. 10. The Rangers come to Newark on Dec. 12, followed by Buffalo on Dec. 13. Purchase Tickets

The December schedule features two meetings with the Flyers, Penguins and Rangers, plus a home matchup against the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins.

"I think it's important that you use your time between games efficiently," Sutter said. "At the same time, you're trying to keep the guys sharp. We don't want to have a situation where we go into Philly and not play up to our potential. We've got a big stretch coming up here, and the month of December is big. We have to take it one game at a time and the biggest thing is keeping everybody playing up to their potential."

Sutter, whose club won a season-high five in a row before Saturday's loss in Pittsburgh, said getting injured players healthy again is key. But he added that the current line-up needs to maintain its recent hot play.

"Guys have stepped up and taken their games to a different level," he said. "We expect it to stay there or get better from there. Just because you have guys coming back doesn't mean you want players to take their foot off the pedal. They still have to keep their games up to the highest level. The guys who are coming in, they have to work to get their games up to that level."

Martin Brodeur visited Prudential Center Tuesday. The Devils goaltender had surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon on Nov. 6. "It's good that he's around," Sutter said. "Sounds like everything is going just according to plan, which is a good thing." ... The Devils have assigned C Petr Vrana to Lowell (AHL) for conditioning.
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