So, unless Sutter changes his mind overnight, this will be the Devils' lineup Wednesday night.
Forwards: Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias-Dainius Zubrus-Brian Gionta; Jay Pandolfo-John Madden-Brendan Shanahan; Mike Rupp-Brian Rolston-David Clarkson.
Defensemen: Johnny Oduya-Paul Martin; Colin White-Mike Mottau; Bryce Salvador-Niclas Havelid.
Goaltender: Martin Brodeur.
No Andy Greene, no Pierre-Luc Latourneau-Leblond, no Jay Leach, and - get this - no Bobby Holik.
Sutter's going with experience on defense and he's hoping Havelid and Salvador will work well together. They've been iffy so far, but that can be chalked up to inexperience together. And they have been better as they had more games together. Now, I don't think that pairing will be a problem short of one of them being less than useless on the ice. It'll still be a team effort and should one of them play poorly or get hurt, Greene is seasoned enough to step right in due to finishing off the season as a regular.
Honestly, it shouldn't be a big surprise that Holik has to wait until getting into the playoffs again. Holik does have experience, defensive skills, and great faceoff skills (he has won 59.3% of his faceoffs this season!). Given that both Carolina and New Jersey won 51.3% of total faceoffs, it's a bit of a gamble to keep a pivot on the bench.
|2008 - Bobby Holik
Yet, the gamble is warranted for this reason: he also has 66 penalty minutes; 10 of those minutes being goaltender interference penalties - the second most in the NHL according to the Forechecker. This is not good; he averaged 2:07 in the box while averaging 10:11 of ice time this season. In the run to the end of the season, it seemed he was good for a minor or two every game - and you can bet that they would frustrate you with their carelessness. Seriously, he's 38, surely he knows better!
With Carolina having gone 7-for-16 against NJ on the power play, he's basically a liability and so he will sit. I think he only enters this series if A) someone gets hurt; B) the Devils are far ahead in the series; or C) the Devils are getting mauled on faceoffs. I'm not a fan of Brian Rolston centering a line, but it's the best option the Devils have after Zajac, Madden, and Zubrus. Fans of the Mike Rupp Experience will just have to appreciate him heading down ice on the wing.
Aside: Yes, I just typed the Mike Rupp Experience. Here's a reminder of what the MRE can bring to the table. Ducks fans, you may want to just visit another site instead of clicking on that link.
Seriously, this really is the strongest lineup Sutter can put together and it's the best option. Outside of sitting Holik, he's not doing anything too much different. The top two scoring lines are together and the defensive top 4 has stayed intact. This team has come a long way from last season where Sutter would literally mix up his lines every game and during some point of the game. This season, he's found success by keeping players in a defined role and being confident in them even if they have a bad night. Chemistry or a lack of familiarity should not be an issue for the Devils this series. Here's hoping it will make the difference tomorrow night and onward.