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Devils' Clowe, Salvador closing in on returns

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils expect to have two veteran players back in their lineup soon. The question is whether it's before the NHL's three-day break for Christmas or after.

Forward Ryane Clowe (concussion) and defenseman Bryce Salvador (non-displaced stress fracture in foot) participated in the morning skate Friday in advance of the Devils' game against the Anaheim Ducks at Prudential Center. Neither will play against the Ducks, but Clowe and Salvador have not been ruled out for New Jersey's upcoming road games Saturday against the Washington Capitals and Monday at the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Devils bring a two-game winning streak into their game Friday; the Ducks have won six in a row and are 9-1-2 in their past 12.

"As close as possible here now," Clowe said. "That will be the next step, get back in the game. I communicated with the coach and GM about how I felt and I think they wanted me to get in a couple more practices, maybe a little more contact, and I guess a little bit of extra patience at this point is not a big deal."

Clowe will miss his 30th straight game since sustaining a concussion Oct. 13. He said he doesn't think he'll play Saturday but would like to be able to get into a game before Christmas.

"I think I'd like to play one game before Christmas," Clowe said. "You feel both ways and understand both ways. If you don't it could be a good thing to take those three days, but on the other hand it'd be nice to go into the Christmas break that you're back and playing. By the time we get into Chicago on Sunday and practice I'll have a better idea."

For Salvador, his injury is pretty straightforward because it involves a bone. He'll miss his 27th straight game Friday since getting hurt Oct. 22, but when it's healed and he's able to play he'll play.

Clowe is different because it's a concussion, his second in as many seasons. He said he has tried to have more patience this time around.

"I think I have tested myself more this time," Clowe said. "I have had a lot of really intense skates on my own. I went through a pretty excruciating process. The first few practices were just practices, then I went to contact and the last three or four days have been a lot of contact. Definitely the steps are there. The next one is to play."

Because Clowe is a physical player, the Devils are trying to make sure he's in the proper shape to handle himself in the battle areas on the ice.

"We're doing a lot of bumping and grinding with him. That's the big thing," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "He's a power forward. He's not a speed/skill guy so he's got to be able to take the pounding and be in game shape to work the boards and get into those tough areas and those battles. We want to see some of that and how he responds to that before we stick him in, but he's very close and so far he's handled his tests very well."

The mere fact Salvador and Clowe are going on the trip is exciting to them. They haven't been on the road since they've been out of the lineup. Salvador said it'll be good to get back into a routine.

"Whether I play or not we'll see but it's good to be back with the guys," Salvador said. "It's important to get back in the game mindset."

DeBoer said Cory Schneider will get the start in net and he'll be making a game-time decision between Tim Sestito and Cam Janssen at one of the forward spots. Here is what the lineup likely will  look like:

Dainius Zubrus - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Damien Brunner - Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique

Reid Boucher - Andrei Loktionov - Michael Ryder

Tim Sestito/Cam Janssen - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne

Eric Gelinas - Marek Zidlicky

Anton Volchenkov - Jon Merrill

Cory Schneider

Martin Brodeur

Scratched: Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby, Cam Janssen/Tim Sestito

Injured: Bryce Salvador (foot), Adam Larsson (lower body), Peter Harrold (foot), Ryane Clowe (concussion), Ryan Carter (lower body)


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