Larsson to make Devils season debut tonight


Adam Larsson will emerge from the press box for the first time tonight when the Devils host the Rangers at Prudential.

“Really, it was a tough decision not to play him coming out of training camp,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said, per “We just had some great camps by a lot of young defensemen. Then, when we got off to the start we got off to, we won three in a row, it’s tough to make lineup changes.

“But, some things have changed and he’s going to get an opportunity tonight and he’s got to make the most of it.”

Larsson, 21, has failed to live up to the promise that saw him go fourth overall at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and has been the Devils’ seventh defemsan almost exclusively this season. He’ll draw into the lineup for Eric Gelinas tonight, though, as Gelinas struggled in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Sharks, going minus-1 in just over 16 minutes of ice time.

In other New Jersey lineup moves, Tuomo Ruutu will take a seat in the press box and be replaced by Damien Brunner.

(Update) Devils’ Havlat out vs. Sharks

New Jersey Devils forward Martin Havlat will not play against his former team, the San Jose Sharks, Saturday.

Initially Havlat was listed as a  game-time decision despite suffering several facial lacerations on Thursday night according to Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger.

However, during the team’s pre-game skate prior to puck drop, Havlat was not part of the line rushes.

Havlat suffered the injury after being taken heavily into the end boards during the second period of New Jersey’s 6-2 loss to the Washington Capitals.

“He’s got a full mask (shield) on to protect the cuts,” said Devils coach Pete DeBoer. “If he’s less than 100 percent we have healthy people. He’s got to tell us that he can come in and contribute.

“It’s one of those injuries that looks worse than it is. When I had a conversation with him today and he mentioned playing tonight, when you look at him you’re kind of in shock that he’s considering that. The good news is there is nothing structural. It’s just cuts and he’s a tough guy.”

Havlat spent three injury-filled seasons with the Sharks prior to being bought out in the summer.

Merrill practicing, Gomez to get another look in New Jersey

There’s good news on the injury front for the New Jersey Devils as defenseman Jon Merrill returned to practicing with his teammates Sunday.

Merrill, who has been out since Sept. 19 after colliding with teammate Ruslan Fedotenko, had been skating on his own according to GM Lou Lamoriello.

“He’s cleared. We’ve been over-protective,” Lamoriello told the Star-Ledger.

Merrill was left feeling woozy after his collision with Fedotenko and needed help off the ice.

The 22-year-old won’t be in the lineup Sunday when the Devils host the Philadelphia Flyers in preseason action, but veteran camp invite Scott Gomez will.

Gomez is expected to center a line of Tuomo Ruutu and Damien Brunner according to Devils beat reporter Tom Gulitti.

Playoff bubble watch — Devils edition


It’s been more than two weeks since we last checked in on the New Jersey Devils’ playoff chances. Since then (Mar. 14), those chances have fallen from 58.8 percent to just 14.3, according to Sports Club Stats, and — in a very related story — the team’s record in the shootout has fallen from 0-8 to 0-10.

Consider: if the Devils were .500 in the “gimmick,” they’d be tied with Columbus for the second wild-card spot in the East.

Alas, they are not .500; they are .000, the only team in the NHL without a shootout win.

Consider now the probability of losing 10 straight shootouts. Even if the Devils are just plain bad at the exercise and you only give them a 25 percent shot of winning each one, the chances they drop 10 straight are around 5 percent.

The chances of losing 10 straight coin flips? Around 0.1 percent. Or, one in a thousand.

“We’re at the point we can pretty much try everything because what we’re doing is not working,” forward Damien Brunner said of his team’s shootout woes. “Maybe we have to start throwing some jokes around on the bench. It can’t get any worse.”

If there’s reason for optimism as the Devils prepare for their final eight games, starting tonight versus Florida (on NBCSN), it may be their less-than-daunting schedule:


Seven non-playoff teams, plus Boston on the last game of the season when it’s likely the Bruins will have nothing on the line.

It’s estimated the Devils will have to earn 14 out of a possible 16 points (so 7-1-0 or 6-2-0) to give themselves a better-than-50/50 shot at making the playoffs.

“We’ve played games that we can win,” goalie Cory Schneider said, per The Record. “We haven’t gotten ourselves out of any games. Right now, we’re not getting ourselves extra points. We’re going to need some help. We’re going to need some teams in front of us to lose, which they did (Friday). But we got to get twos and not ones and zeros right now.”

Related: Are the Devils doomed by the shootout?

Tonight’s Wings-Devils game is a pretty big game


Lost in all today’s trade talk, there are actual games in the NHL tonight. Ten of them, to be specific. And perhaps none bigger from a making-or-missing-the-playoffs perspective than Detroit at New Jersey.

Consider: If the Red Wings win in regulation, the Devils would fall five points back of the final wild card spot in the East, with just 19 games left to catch up. If, however, New Jersey wins in regulation, depending how Columbus does at home versus Dallas, the Devils could climb all the way to within a point of a playoff spot, with another game Friday against the Wings (in Detroit).

Defenseman Bryce Salvador and winger Damien Brunner are both expected back in the lineup for the Devils, per The Record.

“It should be a fun game,” Brunner said. “A lot of faces I know over there. It’s going to be a big game for us. We play them back-to-back here. We’re both in the playoff race. There’s going to be four big points on the line.”

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