Michael Ryder has spent seven straight contests in the press box, but he’ll finally be back in the lineup when the New Jersey Devils take on the Chicago Blackhawks at 8:30 p.m. ET tonight.
With the March 2 trade deadline around the corner and Ryder set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, this can be viewed as the struggling Devils’ attempt to showcase him to contenders that might be interested in the 34-year-old forward’s services.
“Whatever happens, happens. I just want to play hockey and win,” Ryder told the Bergen Record. “I know I can help a team – help this team if I’m here or wherever else. If I get traded, I get traded. There’s not much I can do about it. I’m not losing any sleep about it.”
For his part, Devils GM and interim coach Lou Lamoriello credited Ryder’s hard work during practices for the lineup shakeup, which came at the expense of Martin Havlat.
Havlat, 33, has five goals and 14 points in 36 contests this season. He admitted to being surprised and disappointed by the fact that he won’t be playing against his former club.
“Especially here – one of the best (arenas) in the league and one of the best teams in the league,” Havlat said. “It’s always fun to play against these guys. It is what it is. Sometimes decisions have to be made and that’s all. I’ll be ready for the next game.”
Like Ryder, Havlat is eligible to test the free agent waters this summer and has consequently been the subject of trade speculation.
Ryane Clowe will join the Devils for their upcoming two-game road swing through Chicago and Nashville, but GM Lou Lamoriello was quick to shoot down any suggestion this is a step in Clowe’s return to game action:
Though unsurprising — Clowe’s missed 80 games over the last two years while dealing with concussion issues — it’s a sobering update with regards to the 32-year-old’s future in New Jersey. Clowe is only in the second of a five-year, $24.25 million deal with a $4.85M cap hit and while the club could seek financial relief through long-term injured reserve, Clowe has become the poster boy for Lamoriello’s penchant of gambling large on veteran players in free agency.
Sometimes, the strategy has paid off — Mike Cammalleri and Jaromir Jagr are two of the club’s three leading scorers this season, for example. But in other cases, leaning on veteran UFAs has backfired; 34-year-old Michael Ryder, a repeated healthy scratch this season, is making $3.5 million annually and 33-year-old Martin Havlat — who, admittedly, came relatively cheap at $1.5M — has been a virtual non-factor, scoring just nine points in 36 games.
Based on today’s update, it’s fair to wonder if Clowe’s career is in jeopardy. And if that’s the case, it’ll be an inglorious end to his time in New Jersey; since signing with the club in the summer of ’13, he’s only made 56 appearances in a Devils uniform.
The New Jersey Devils’ season is slipping away from them after winning just two of their last 11 games, but they’ll get some help tonight as they attempt to right the ship.
Forwards Patrik Elias, Martin Havlat, and Michael Ryder have all been activated off of the injured reserve list, per the Devils’ Twitter feed. Joe Whitney will return to AHL Albany.
For Elias and Ryder, this marks their return to the NHL after being victims of the mumps outbreak.
“I looked like I was out of hockey for 10 years and had a second chin,” Elias remarked, per the Bergen Record.
Havlat didn’t have the mumps, but still missed four straight games with an illness.
During their absence, head coach Peter DeBoer was fired and GM Lou Lamoriello began his unorthodox approach of having Adam Oates or Scott Stevens serve as co-coaches with Lamoriello temporarily overseeing the transition from behind the bench.
The Devils have gone 1-2-0 under the new system. They will play against the Montreal Canadiens tonight.
Perhaps Devils GM Lou Lamoriello decided to give the team multiple quasi-head coaches because he’s worried about one of them spending time in the Devils’ sickbay.
New Jersey is unfortunately one of the hardest hit teams by the mumps outbreak. Forward Patrik Elias became the third Devils’ player to be diagnosed with the mumps on Friday after Travis Zajac and Adam Larsson. Today it was revealed that Michael Ryder has the disease as well, per the Bergen Record.
The illness has also spread to the Devils’ affiliate, the AHL Albany Devils, as 37-year-old goaltender Scott Clemmensen is battling the mumps.
The Devils will get back Dainius Zubrus (leg) and Jacob Josefson (groin) tonight though. Along with the anticipated recall of Tim Sestito, New Jersey will have 11 healthy forwards for their game against the New York Rangers.
The slumping New Jersey Devils are shaking things up tonight, but doing it in a surprise fashion — parking second-leading scorer Michael Ryder in the press box as a healthy scratch.
More, from NJ.com:
“Yeah, I’m angry. Of course I’m angry,” Ryder said when asked by NJ Advance Media. “You want to play. Especially when I think I can help the team. If the coach doesn’t feel you can help the team, it’s his decision.”
Ryder said he cannot recall the last time he was a healthy scratch and he didn’t see this coming.
“Nope. It’s the coach’s decision. He’s got to do what he’s got to do,” Ryder said. “Obvioulsy you have to score goals, but the whole team is struggling to score goals. (Pete DeBoer) has decisions he thinks are best and if I don’t fit in, that’s it.”
Ryder hasn’t scored a goal in 11 games, but does have 12 points in 24 contests — just three points back of Jaromir Jagr for the team lead.
What’s more, the 34-year-old hasn’t seen a dip in his ice time recently. Ryder averages 14:13 TOI per game and has received more than that in each of the last two games, including 16:50 in a 5-4 shootout loss to Detroit last Friday.
Related: After ‘disappointing’ road trip, is DeBoer on the hot seat?