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Clarkson returning to New Jersey lineup

by Mike G. Morreale /
NEWARK, N.J. -- And then there were two -- as in just two players now sidelined by injury for the New Jersey Devils.

That was made official Monday morning when the club removed right wing David Clarkson from injured reserve, leaving defenseman Paul Martin (broken arm) and center Dainius Zubrus (fractured kneecap) as the only two Devils on the shelf. Clarkson will be in the lineup Monday night when the Devils host the Atlanta Thrashers.

That's quite a change from a little over a month ago when New Jersey had five players out, including Martin, Zubrus, Jay Pandolfo, Rob Niedermayer and Johnny Oduya. Clarkson, who had been sidelined the past 13 games with a fractured right fibula, returned to practice last Wednesday and declared himself ready to go Monday.

To make room for Clarkson, rookie defenseman Matt Corrente was sent down to the AHL's Lowell Devils.

Prior to suffering his injury in Boston on Nov. 27, Clarkson was off to the best start of his two-plus season career with 7 goals and 15 points in 23 games while averaging 15:08 of ice time.

"I feel pretty good," Clarkson said with a smile. "It'll be nice to get the timing down and be in the game. I feel good skating; I get some pains like muscle stuff, but nothing to serious. It was driving me crazy sitting home on my couch, so it's better to be in here with the guys playing instead of watching."

In Clarkson, coach Jacques Lemaire knows he'll be getting a player who enjoys wreaking havoc in front of the opponent's net.

"What comes to my mind when I think of Clarkson is his play in front of the net," Lemaire said. "And on the power-play, he has that presence there, around the net. He likes to bring pucks at the goalie from the goal line, get in front and look for rebounds. He's solid on his skates, has a long reach and he's got good moves there."

Clarkson, who also makes a living as one of the team's top enforcers, will likely open on a line with Rod Pelley and Andrew Peters. He doesn't anticipate holding anything back.

"I think I'm going to go full force out there," Clarkson said. "I don't think I have an easy switch in me. I'm going out there and going to give it everything I have. I feel right. I've practiced a couple of times and now it's up to (the team) where I fit in."

Clarkson, 25, said he actually learned a lot watching from the sidelines.

"I've watched the most hockey in my four years of being here," he said. "You pick up things about how players move their feet, not only from your team but the other teams. You even learn stuff with your coach. As hard as it was (watching from home), the team was still winning, so you're happy that we're doing well. As a competitor, you never want to sit and watch your team. You want to maintain that edge as a player and you never expect it (injury)."

NOTES: Devils coach Jacques Lemaire confirmed that Martin Brodeur will make his 16th-consecutive start and 23rd-straight appearance for the Devils Monday night. Brodeur is 23-9-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.

Contact Mike Morreale at
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