NEWARK, N.J. -- Left wing Dainius Zubrus will make his anticipated return to the lineup on Monday when the New Jersey Devils play host to the New York Islanders at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET, MSG PLUS 2, MSG PLUS).
Zubrus, who underwent surgery to repair ligament damage in his left wrist on Feb. 14, has missed the past 26 games. He's been skating on his own since mid-March and practiced with the team on Monday for the first time since he last played on Feb. 5 against the New York Rangers at Prudential Center.
"I feel good, it's been a while," Zubrus told reporters after practice. "I think I have [my stamina] back. After about 10 days after my surgery I was able to work out, so I feel like I'm in pretty good shape. I know getting back in a game situation is a little different since you battle guys and push guys, so that adds a lot more work, but it's not going to be the first time I've ever done this, so I think I'll be OK."
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello cleared a roster spot for Zubrus on Saturday when he assigned forward Tim Sestito to the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Albany Devils. Zubrus was activated off injured reserve on Monday.
"It's nice to have him back; it seems like it's been all year almost considering the shortened season, but we missed him," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "He's a guy that plays all situations for us when he's healthy: penalty kill, five-on-five and in the last minute of a game."
In nine games this season, Zubrus has one goal, four points, 14 hits and seven blocked shots while averaging just over 18 minutes of ice time a game. Prior to his injury, Zubrus was working the Devils' top line with center Travis Zajac and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk, who was retroactively placed on injured reserve one day after sustaining a right shoulder injury in the third period of a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on March 23, has missed the past three games.
What is Zubrus' biggest concern?
"Well, because I haven't been skating with the full team for a while, I'll try and keep [shifts] short," Zubrus said. "I feel like my legs are OK, but I just don't want to get caught and stuck out there for too long because game days are different."
Despite losing the past three games, the Devils have managed points in five straight (2-0-3) to keep pace with teams in the Eastern Conference fighting for a playoff berth.
Here are the possible line combinations for the Devils on Monday:
Patrik Elias - Andrei Loktionov - Steve Bernier
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - David Clarkson
Dainius Zubrus - Adam Henrique - Matt D'Agostini
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Tom Kostopoulos
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Henrik Tallinder - Peter Harrold
Injured: Ilya Kovalchuk (shoulder)
Scratches: Adam Larsson, Krystofer Barch, Anton Volchenkov