hopes to be in the lineup Friday when the Devils face another tough test against the Vancouver Canucks.
Larsson has been sidelined with a bruised lower back since Feb. 2, when he took a hard hit from Montreal's P.K. Subban. Excited to be back with the team, Larsson was paired with Bryce Salvador
at Thursday's practice.
"Today it feels great," Larsson said. "I've been skating now for four days, and it feels pretty good now the last three days. I'm very glad to be back now."
The rookie's recovery took longer than he'd expected.
"It didn't heal the way I thought it would, so it was pretty frustrating," he said. "It took a long time. Now, the last week has been better every day, so I'm glad."
Larsson thought his collision with the boards did more damage than the hit itself.
"I knew he was a great hitter, but I didn't know he was that good," Larsson said. "I saw him and I knew he was there, but he was so fast I couldn't really move from there."
He added: "There's no hard feelings or anything. It was a good hit. If I could've done that, I would've."
Despite missing the last nine games, Larsson still leads Devils defensemen with 16 points (2g-14a). His return would strengthen a blue line that has had to overcome key injuries all season.
"We're getting some bodies back and we're going to have some tough decisions to make," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "That's the spot you want to be in."
Like Larsson, Ryan Carter
(hand) has also missed nine games and returned to practice on Thursday. He skated at left wing on a line with Jacob Josefson
and Nick Palmieri.
Defenseman Kurtis Foster (upper body) has missed the last two contests, but reported feeling better after practice.
"We're going to meet with the trainers after they get their treatments and see how everybody feels and make some decisions tonight," DeBoer said.
The red-hot Devils (35-20-4, 74 pts.) have won four in a row and nine of their last 11. The Canucks (38-16-6, 82 pts.) are 7-1-2 in their last 10 and are second in points to League-leading Detroit.
Vancouver was set to visit the Red Wings in Detroit on Thursday. The Wings entered the meeting having won an NHL-record 23 straight on home ice. Martin Brodeur
will start Friday to open a tough stretch of three games in four days. Tampa Bay visits on Sunday; the Devils head to MSG to face the Rangers on Monday.
"For sure, this is a great test for us this weekend," DeBoer said. "You've got Vancouver and the Rangers – two of the top three teams in the League coming up – and Tampa sandwiched in between, which has been one of the hotter teams in the League."
Since the All-Star break, the Devils have fared well in games billed as measuring sticks. They've topped the Rangers twice, and posted wins against hot clubs like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Anaheim.
"You're always wary," DeBoer said. "We haven't seen a team like Vancouver in a long time. This team is four lines deep, six defensemen deep, some of the best goaltending in the League. They can make you pay in a lot of different ways. It's going to be real interesting in how we handle that."