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Wait continues for Devils' injured

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Defenseman Tyler Eckford skated as a right wing in Tuesday's practice. 
Jacques Lemaire had hoped to have one or two injured players back on the ice for Tuesday’s practice. He’ll have to wait at least one more day.

“What happened? I don’t know what happened,” said the Devils head coach. “Maybe tomorrow. I was sure today, but things change. So it just tells you that it won’t be this week. You gotta have some practice before you get in the games.”

Lemaire is not likely to have any players return to action for Wednesday’s home meeting with Ottawa. The Senators bring a four-game winning streak to the Rock, where the Devils have taken four in a row.

Lemaire said the Devils (14-6-1) would not make any call-ups, going instead with seven defensemen. He used the same formula for Saturday’s 5-3 loss at Dallas, with blueliner Matt Corrente skating at right wing in his NHL debut.

Defenseman Tyler Eckford, who made his NHL debut at Nashville, was slotted Tuesday on the right side of Andrew Peters and Tim Sestito.

“We talked, the coaches, and somebody told me that Eckford played forward in the past,” Lemaire said. “I know how he can skate, so I said, ‘Hey, maybe it’s not a bad idea. We’ll try the other kid and we’ll give a chance to Corrente to play on defense.'”

Eckford knows the position, having been a First Team All-Star forward for the Queen's Park Pirates (PIJHL) in 2001-02. By 2004-05, he was the highest scoring defenseman in the BCHL, finishing with 22 goals and 43 assists as a member of the South Surrey Eagles.

He thought nothing of a possible position change three games into his NHL career.

“It’s not really surprising,” Eckford said. “You just come and play wherever they need a hole filled. That’s all that happened. I was up forward on a line that was missing a guy, and we had seven D. I wasn’t surprised or worried about it; I just went out and had a good practice.”

His familiarity with the forward role was an asset.

"I got mixed up a couple of times, but it's pretty straightforward," Eckford said. "It's not like centerman or anything like that. D-men pay attention to what everyone else does, too, so it's not too hard. A little adjustment, but nothing major."

If there’s an upside to having six regulars out of the lineup with injury, it’s that the Devils can take a closer look at the depth of talent in the organization.

“We have to try these kids because we have the chance to try them,” Lemaire said.  “It’s what’s happening right now that gives us the opportunity to try the kids; to play them more, see what they can do. As soon as the injured players will be back, there won’t be any room for these kids. We want to know what they can do.”

Any ice time at the NHL level is a plus for a young prospect. Eckford saw 9:01 of playing time in his debut, and 5:10 at Dallas, where he collected his first career point with an assist.

“Even if they don’t play at their position, just playing is good for them,” Lemaire said. “The competition and how quick it is, it’s good for them. It’s good experience.”

The extra seasoning at a different position doesn’t hurt.

“If your position is a difficult position that you’re playing, and you go play at an easier position, that will help your game,” said Lemaire. “But on the other hand, if you play a tougher position, then it’s really hard. It gets harder.”

On Lemaire’s scale, center is tougher to play than the wing, and defense is tougher to play than forward.
“See a defenseman will go up, and they can play forward for a few games without any damage,” he said. "It won’t hurt. If you’re a defenseman, and you’re not ready for the NHL, you go on defense and you might hurt (the team).”

Eckford said he’ll only know what to expect when Wednesday’s lineup is posted.

“Who knows until gametime?” Eckford said. “I don’t really worry about stuff like that, it gets in your head. You just come to the rink, and if you’re in, you’re in. That’s how I go about it.”

Martin Brodeur was back at practice Tuesday after welcoming a new addition to the family. Maxime Phillippe Brodeur arrived a little after noon on Monday, weighing in at a little over eight pounds. 

“It went really well,” Brodeur said. “A big, healthy baby.”

Brodeur said that he and his wife, Genevieve, did have one goal in mind when choosing the name of their new son.

“Anything they could say in French and English pretty easy,” Brodeur said, explaining that he’s heard about a half-dozen different pronunciations for “Martin.”

“I figured that’s pretty easy, and all my other kids are the same way,” he said.

Maxime joins Brodeur’s three sons, Anthony, twins William and Jeremy, and daughter, Anabelle Antoinette. Brodeur has each of their first initials on the back of his helmet, and had already added an “M” for Maxime.

“It’s already on,” he said. “My boy Alex (Abasto, Devils’ assistant equipment manager) does it every time for me, until I get it really painted.”

• The Devils visit Boston for a noon contest on Friday, then host the Isles for a 1 p.m. game on Saturday. It’s a rare stretch of three games in four days with back-to-back afternoon dates.

“This is unique with what will happen,” Lemaire said. “We’re playing at twelve and then we’re playing at one. I haven’t seen this. It’s very unique. It’ll go quick, I can tell you that. It’ll go really quick.”

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