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Hedberg starts, Gelinas makes NHL debut for Devils

by Mike G. Morreale /

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goalie Johan Hedberg will make his first start in over a month Thursday when his team plays host to the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins in the final game of the season at Prudential Center.

Hedberg, who is making his first start since a March 19 loss to the New York Rangers, is 5-9-3 with a 2.73 goals-against average and .886 save percentage in 17 games this season. In 10 career appearances against the Penguins, Hedberg is 3-5-1 with 2.84 GAA and .900 save percentage.

"It's been a while now since I last played, so it's nice to get one in and set up for next year," Hedberg told "We're playing for pride now. The fans have been great all year and coming to every game. That's really what we're playing for tonight … to show our appreciation for what they did for us."

Martin Brodeur, who had started the previous 16 straight (5-7-4), is expected to return between the pipes Saturday in the team's season finale at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.

If the Rangers defeat the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh on Thursday, they would clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A loss could open the door for the Winnipeg Jets to at least pull even in points for the eighth playoff spot. If that were the case, the Devils might possibly have a say in whether or not the Rangers qualify.

After sitting out as a healthy scratch in a victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, center Adam Henrique will return to the lineup to face the Penguins. Defenseman Eric Gelinas will be making his NHL debut.

Gelinas, the Devils' 2009 second-round pick (No. 54), missed almost two months of the season after taking a puck to the mouth during a preseason game for the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League on Oct. 6.

Not only did Gelinas lose several teeth, but he also sustained a broken lower jaw.

"It's nice to get a start, especially against a team like this with big stars … it'll be a good challenge," Gelinas said. "I'm not overly offensive, but I can bring some offense and think I have a good shot. I worked a lot on my defense this year and I think I improved a lot from last year. I'm not overly physical, but I'm not afraid to throw my body around."

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound lefty, who will play alongside Peter Harrold, was recalled by the Devils from Albany on Tuesday. He returned to Albany's lineup on Nov. 25 and has since produced six goals and 22 points in 57 games.

Gelinas didn't seem overly concerned when asked about possibly getting hit in the jaw on Thursday.

"The dentist told me I could get hit again and, since there are so many micro-fractures, that [something could happen], but it's not something I think about," Gelinas said. "If it happens, it happens, but it's the game of hockey. There aren't too many guys with their teeth still in, so I guess it's part of the game."

Here is how the Devils might line up against the Penguins on Thursday:

Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - David Clarkson

Adam Henrique - Andrei Loktionov - Ilya Kovalchuk

Dainius Zubrus - Jacob Josefson - Steve Sullivan

Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Eric Gelinas - Peter Harrold

Johan Hedberg

Martin Brodeur

Scratched: Alexei Ponikarovsky, Alexander Urbom, Krystofer Barch, Mark Fayne, Henrik Tallinder

Injured: Bryce Salvador (thumb/wrist)


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