Ahead of tonight's final preseason game of the season, the New Jersey Devils trimmed their roster down to 28 players. Tom Gulitti reported at Fire & Ice that the team has demoted four players to Albany: Stefan Matteau, Reid Boucher, Seth Helgeson, and Keith Kinkaid. This means the Devils are down to 18 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies. Scott Clemmensen will begin this season as the back up goaltender to Cory Schneider.
I can't say I'm surprised that Matteau, Boucher, and Helgeson were sent down. Helgeson looked fine in his preseason games. I do think he's played his way as being one of the first call-ups from Albany if or when there's an injury on defense. However, the Devils didn't really have any space on their blueline to begin with. Six guys are waiver-eligible and Jon Merrill isn't going down. Matteau looked just OK in his preseason games. Had he finished some of his glorious scoring chances against the Islanders, maybe he would have stuck out more. Boucher had an awesome start to the preseason, but faded in games after that. With so many forwards in training camp, Matteau had to impress and Boucher had to keep impressing to really make a case for a roster spot in New Jersey. Neither did, so they'll be heading back down. Like Helgeson, I think they'll be among the first to be called up if or when there's an injury at forward.
Keith Kinkaid going down is the bigger news. Scott Clemmensen backing up Cory Schneider tonight will not just be for a preseason finale. The veteran has won the battle. I thought Kinkaid was a little better. In the preseason game they split, Kinkaid was the better goalie by virtue of not mishandling a puck. I thought Kinkaid responded very well after a first period in Brooklyn, which featured a big mistake. Clemmensen's sole game was a question mark as the opposition failed to reach 10 shots on net in the first two periods. I will also admit that I didn't see both in practices or scrimmages. This could be a case where the staff was expecting Kinkaid to really stand out. He didn't, so the veteran with his experience gets the job. Peter DeBoer's quotes in Gulitti's post suggest that Kinkaid could return. Maybe he will when the team will be facing long road trips and the schedule has more back-to-back sets that drive teams to use their #2 goalie. But, at 25, Kinkaid is who he pretty much is. Getting more action in Albany isn't necessarily going to make him much more ready for the next level. The door may not be closed, but it's not an encouraging sign for the man from Union College.
So tonight's game will carry more importance for the players still on the bubble. Consider tonight's lineup according to this earlier post by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice. Scott Gomez, who's on a tryout, is not playing. Neither is the unsigned Ryan Carter. Jacob Josefson, Cam Janssen, and Steve Bernier are also out. Those players won't get another chance to show where they could fit in the lineup. Jordin Tootoo (still on his tryout) and Stephen Gionta will. And one of those two wouldn't be in if Damien Brunner didn't take a puck to the face on Friday. Damon Severson will also get one final game, though that's likely a result of Marek Zidlicky and Peter Harrold being held out. For Tootoo, Gionta, and Severson, they need to make the most of it - assuming they still have a shot at the roster. The first set of difficult decisions were made before this game. The next set will likely come shortly thereafter as the team still has to cut at least five more players.
What do you think of the demotions? Do you think the Devils should have picked Kinkaid over Clemmensen, and why? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about these roster moves in the comments. Thank you for reading.