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Devils expect to have Brunner back to face Blues

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils right wing Damien Brunner is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues at Prudential Center.

Brunner, who missed the past 14 games after sustaining a sprained right knee in a loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 20, was back practicing with the team Monday and participated in the morning skate Tuesday. He will wear a brace to help stabilize the knee as a precaution.

"I'm feeling good," Brunner told "I made a good recovery and put in some good hard work last week when the guys were on the road trip. I feel comfortable to play; there's no pain."

Brunner has eight goals and 13 points in 32 games this season.

Defenseman Peter Harrold also returned to practice Monday for the first time since sustaining a right foot fracture in the third period of an overtime victory against the New York Rangers on Dec. 7. Devils coach Peter DeBoer said Harrold would be unavailable on Tuesday.

If he is good to go, Brunner will skate alongside Dainius Zubrus and Patrik Elias against the Blues.

"It'll be a tough challenge for us [against St. Louis]," Brunner said. "We have to take care of our own end and, hopefully, play a good game."

Defenseman Jon Merrill will be a healthy scratch for the Devils.

Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko (flu), who sat out Monday in a victory against the Detroit Red Wings, remains questionable against the Devils. Coach Ken Hitchcock said the Russian is a game-time decision.

"He feels better but we're not 100 percent yet, so still under the weather but we'll see how he feels throughout the day and before the game," Hitchcock said.

If Tarasenko is able to play, the veteran coach said he would likely have him with Vladimir Sobotka and Magnus Paajarvi to generate some speed. Tarasenko was replaced in the lineup Monday by Adam Cracknell, who logged 9:26 of ice time, generated two shots, had two blocks, and delivered two hits centering Brenden Morrow and Ryan Reaves.

Hitchcock will start Brian Elliott between the pipes. Elliott is 2-3-0 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in five career starts against New Jersey.

St. Louis has a pair of 40-point scorers on its roster in T.J. Oshie (11 goals, 30 assists) and Alexander Steen (24 goals, 16 assists). The Blues held an optional skate Tuesday morning after snapping a two-game losing streak against the Red Wings on Monday.

Here are the probable line combinations for both teams:


Alex Steen - David Backes - Jaden Schwartz

Patrik Berglund - Vladimir Sobotka - T.J. Oshie

Brenden Morrow - Adam Cracknell - Ryan Reaves

Magnus Paajarvi - Derek Roy - Chris Stewart

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Jordan Leopold - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott

Jaroslav Halak

Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian Cole

Injured: Maxim Lapierre (lower body), Vladimir Tarasenko (flu)


Reid Boucher - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner

Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Eric Gelinas - Anton Volchenkov

Cory Schneider

Martin Brodeur

Scratched: Andrei Loktionov, Jacob Josefson, Andrei Loktionov, Jon Merrill

Injured: Peter Harrold (foot)

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