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Palmieri and Quenneville return to lineup versus Washington

Devils and Capitals face off tonight at 7PM

by Amanda Stein @amandacstein / newjerseydevils.com

This time, the New Jersey Devils are getting healthy bodies back.

On Friday night in Washington, forwards Kyle Palmieri and John Quenneville will return to the lineup. Both players have been out since facing the Montreal Canadiens on February 25th. Palmieri finished the game, while Quenneville played just seven shifts in 5:13 of ice time.

For Quenneville, it was his first game back in the NHL since his stint in Binghamton. He hadn't played in the NHL since January 2nd.

"[My game] has been in the best spot it's been in in my pro career," Quenneville said. "I was playing really, really well in Binghamton. I think I was lighting it up and really feeling confident in my game. I had a lot of time with the puck on my stick, making lots of plays out there. Lots of goals and a lot of chances. I feel good about [my game]. I continue to develop and take steps forward. I feel like I'm getting better and better." 

While Quenneville was in Binghamton, he had 11 points, seven goals, and four assists in 12 games since January 16th. He says this recent stint gave him a new level of confidence in his game that he hopes translates at the NHL level.

So does coach John Hynes.

"We feel like we've given him some quality looks and quality opportunities," Hynes said. "He's going to get another one now, but he has to impact the game. If you look at what he was drafted as he's a point producing player in the American Hockey League, but when you look at when he gets to the National Hockey League, it hasn't translated as much.

"We need him to be a threat offensively - that doesn't necessarily translate into points all the time - but you have to be a threat," Hynes continued. "He's a big, strong kid and he has to really come in and play as the other guys who have come in when they're called up and played. They made impacts physically, work ethic-wise, speed-wise. We're looking for him to be able to get in that mix of guys that have helped us be a tough team to play against."

For Palmieri, his return is much earlier than originally expected but is a welcome unexpected addition.

"It's nice to see him recover so quickly," Hynes said. "He was supposed to be out a little bit longer. It gives us a little more depth up front, he plays a key role. I also think he gives a bit of a boost to the rest of the guys, so we're excited to have him back."

Palmieri feels as healthy as a player can feel at this time of year, with more than half the NHL schedule come and gone.

"It feels strong," Palmieri said. "Maybe not 100 percent back up to full speed, but I think that will come. Getting into a game situation will help. Yesterday was a good hard practice, I was able to test everything out. It felt good, responded the right way and I'm looking forward to being back tonight."

Palmieri will play alongside Travis Zajac and Kenny Agostino on the top line against the Capitals. A combination that hasn't been together before, but due to injuries has forced Hynes' hand. While the three players haven't played as a combination on a line together before, Palmieri is confident that the chemistry will find itself, as it will on the three other offensive lines.

"It's not so much about chemistry," Palmieri added. "It's about being familiar. Binghamton plays a relatively similar system to us and that's something that makes the transition a little easier [for everyone]. I think for the guys coming up and being put into different situations in the lineup, at the end of the day, it's about working hard and committing to the game plan and everybody who has come up and filled in has done a great job at that."

Goalies Cory Schneider and Mackenzie Blackwood continue to alternate starts for New Jersey. On Friday it is Blackwood's net against the Capitals. He'll go up against Braden Holtby, a player he grew up admiring.

Here is the projected lineup for New Jersey:

Agostino-Zajac-Palmieri
Noesen-Coleman-Stafford
Lappin-McLeod-Anderson
Quenneville-Pietila-Gabriel

Greene-Severson
Butcher-Carrick
Yakovlev-Santini

Blackwood
Schneider

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