Jay Pandolfo and Johnny Oduya could be back as early as the weekend.
Both players reported progress after Thursday’s skate, though no official decisions have been made. The Devils host a back-to-back when they welcome Tampa Bay on Friday and Detroit on Saturday.
Pandolfo (shoulder) has been out of action since Oct. 24, and returned to practice on Monday.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better every day,” said the Devils' left wing. “I haven’t taken any steps back. It definitely improved since Monday. Didn’t do a whole lot yesterday because it was a pre-game skate. I guess we’ll see how I feel after a pretty good practice today.”
Asked if he had considered coming back for Friday’s game and resting Saturday, Pandolfo said when he returns, he expects it to be for good. He’ll take part in Friday's morning skate and discuss the next step with Devils trainers and coaching staff.
“I don’t want to be in a situation where I can play one game and then can’t play the next,” he said. “If I’m going to play, I want to be able to play and not have to worry about how my shoulder’s going to feel tomorrow. Once I start playing games, I want it to be, ‘OK I can play tonight, we have another game tomorrow. I should be able to play that, too.'
"It’s a different situation than a groin or something like that where you’re skating non-stop all the time and you can overuse that. The shoulder’s a little different so I should be strong enough right away where I should be able to play back-to-back games. Depending on how I feel tomorrow, maybe giving it another day won’t be a bad idea. If I feel good enough, we’ll see.”
Oduya (lower body) was injured in Boston on Oct. 29. The defenseman began practicing with the team on Tuesday.
“I feel better day-to-day skating, conditioning a little bit, too,” he said. “But it’s up to the coaches if it’s going to be tomorrow or, I would say, Saturday. We’ll see in a little bit what they think.”
His recovery's on schedule.
“The plan was to try and get in this weekend, so that’s what we’re looking for,” he said.
Oduya and Andrew Peters got into a one-on-one board battle during a drill at Thursday’s practice. Little tests like that have Oduya believing he’s ready.
“Obviously, you want to get in a little bit of those situations,” he said. “That’s going to come more with games, too. Like I said, I feel good, so that’s a good sign.”