The lead graph from Rich Chere’s piece in the New Jersey Star-Ledger says it all.
If the Devils opened the Stanley Cup playoffs tomorrow, Peter Harrold would be in the lineup and rookie Adam Larsson would be watching.
On the surface, this seems like a strange decision. Larsson — 6-foot-3, 220-pounds — played 64 games this season (2G-16A-18PTS) and was selected to represent the Devils at the 2012 NHL All-Star Rookie SuperSkills Competition.
Harrold — 5-foot-11, 195-pounds — has played eight after a late-season recall from AHL Albany.
While this decision might seem “unusual” (Chere’s word, not ours) Devils head coach Peter DeBoer thinks it’s a perfectly normal choice to make. Larsson has struggled returning from injury and Harrold has been part of a lineup that’s won three straight.
“It’s the NHL and we’re here to win games,” DeBoer said. “We’re going to put the best possible lineup on the ice to win games. Sentimental feelings don’t go into it a lot. I understand it’s a tough spot for [Larsson], but you’re in the best league in the world and that comes with the job.”
Larsson has been a healthy scratch for the last three games, and it appears No. 4 will happen tonight against the Islanders. If it does, that leaves DeBoer and the Devils just two more regular season games — Thursday against Detroit, Saturday against Ottawa — to figure out if the fourth overall choice at the 2011 draft will play in the 2012 postseason.
For what it’s worth, DeBoer says he hasn’t ruled out playing Larsson in the playoffs.
“I’m very confident we’re going to get back a motivated young man and I think a guy who is going to be a valuable part for us,” he told the Star-Ledger. “It’s just a matter of when.”
It should be noted that, prior to getting parked, Larsson was third among all Devils defensemen in average ice time (20:44 per game), second only to Henrik Tallinder and the recently-acquired Marek Zidlicky.