Thursday morning may be young, but there's quite a bit of news surrounding our New Jersey Devils already. Today we're going to talk about centers (all of them in some way shape or form), a call-up, the possibility of injuries and more.
1.) Travis Zajac placed on Injured Reserve
While information is still a bit scarce, Fire and Ice's Tom Gulitti tweeted this morning that the Devils placed Zajac on IR retroactive to his injury on December 3rd. This means 2 things: first is that Zajac is eligible to come off the list for tomorrow's game if he is healthy enough to play, and second, it opens a roster spot for the team.
The Devils have missed Travis since he went down with his injury; the team has looked terrible in the faceoff circle without him, and the defense and penalty kill have missed his presence as well. Don't believe me? Just go back and watch most of the third period of the Florida game. Going back to that roster spot that opened...
2.) Joseph Blandisi called up from Albany
I have to be cautious right now because this could wind up being a Brian O'Neill situation all over again where I'm optimistic about a player and he winds up not panning out. That being said, I do think that Blandisi might have a better chance to succeed with New Jersey; he's a bit younger than O'Neill as a first year pro and he never really looked out of place in the preseason. He will wear #64.
Hopefully Blandisi can contribute and stay with the big club for the season, because even with a healthy line-up, the Devils could use a few more players putting pucks behind goalies. Our current third liners have been anemic to scoring and even one scorer on a line other than the top 2 would give the team more depth.
3.) No Update (Yet) on Adam Henrique
I'm watching TG's twitter like a hawk right now because while we have an update on Zajac (granted not the most detailed one) we still do not have any additional information on Adam Henrique after he left Tuesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a lower body injury.
Footage from the game seemed to show him injuring his left leg; hopefully it is minor and he will return soon, as Henrique was in the process of putting together his best season with New Jersey to date. He was on pace for a 38 goal, 29 assist season, which would be a career high in goals and points (67) for him. Rico has been invaluable to this team so far, and if he misses an extended period of time, the team may start to sink closer to where they were initially predicted to finish this season.
Update: Adam Henrique is not practicing with the team today; still no specifics on injury.
4.) When do Jacob Josefson and/or Stephen Gionta sit a game?
I'm not going to harp on these guys too much due to the fact that they play in the bottom 6 and aren't expected to be major contributors, but the fact of the matter is these two aren't holding up their end of the bargain in other aspects of the game right now. Both have been terrible in terms of plus minus (Jake is second worst on the team with -11 and Gionta is fourth worst at -6) and aren't fairing as well at faceoffs (Josefson 47.6%, Gionta 44%) as we need them to.
Josefson is receiving a large amount of power play time still and has a paltry 6 points to show for it this season. The preseason made it seem as though Jake was starting to put it all together in a new system, but he's looking more and more like a 4th line shut down guy who should play every night only because of his shootout skill.
If that's Josefson's role, where does it leave Gionta? He has less points (3) but that's with lesser linemates and next to no powerplay time. I still feel his game has dropped off, and even if he isn't scratched this season, the only Devils jersey I want to see him in next year is an Albany one as a veteran for that team.
The reason I ask when either sits a game is because it seems like everyone else who has had one or more bad games (Sergei Kalinin, Jiri Tlusty, Stefan Matteau, Damon Severson, Eric Gelinas, and Jon Merrill) have been healthy scratched in an effort to refocus them. Will we see it happen when our top 2 centers return?
5.) What's Up with Jordin Tootoo?
Speaking of plus minus, it isn't a strict measure of overall play, but Jordin Tootoo is another player who might need to be a healthy scratch at least once when this team is healthy. He is currently a startling -17 with 55 penalty minutes and a paltry 4 points, all coming from undeserved powerplay time.
With all of the teams that are waving players this season, the Devils might want to think about placing Tootoo on waivers with the purpose of assignment to Albany. His role in the team is currently being filled more effectively by Bobby Farnham who surprisingly isn't a human wasteland on ice, as many of us were led to initially believe.
Tootoo needs to step his game up, or he may wind up getting surpassed by players hungry for a chance like Blandisi.
6.) Jiri Tlusty Looks to be Back
Quickly addressing this, Tlusty is skating on a line this morning with Blandisi and Kyle Palmieri. I would assume the Devils will be activating him from injured reserve before Friday's game and may just be biding their time to find out the extent of the injuries to Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique. Tlusty hasn't contributed much this season, but has also been dealing with injuries. If he is back to 100% hopefully he can add some more depth scoring to the team.
7.) What to do When Tuomo Ruutu is Ready
For the Devils to be able to activate Tlusty, they would need to either place another player (likely Henrique) on IR, or make another roster move. The Devils would need to clear 3 roster spots again once Zajac, Rico and Ruutu are ready to come back.
If his play continues as it has recently, I wouldn't mind if the Devils sent Sergey Kalinin to Albany for a bit just to help him get his game back. He also has the benefit of not requiring waivers to be sent down, so if another injury struck, he could come right back to New Jersey. Blandisi could also be sent back down without waivers, and if he doesn't impress in this short first stint, he could be sent down for more seasoning.
Even if the Devils do send that pair down, they would still need to waive a player to activate all three injured players. I think at this point Tootoo has to be a strong consideration, as does O'Neill who has contributed next to nothing albeit in a fourth line role. If Tlusty continues to be ineffective, he could be on his way out too; Gionta also would have an outside chance of being waived, but really only if Blandisi sticks and the Devils need to waive 2 players.
Of course with the way this team is going, it could just wind up being a revolving door of injuries.
8.) Ugly Christmas Sweaters
Everyone has certainly seen Albany's Christmas themed jerseys by now, right? All I can say is that I think the team is missing a golden opportunity by not having these jerseys made available for sale. With all the rage over ugly Christmas sweaters (contests, parties, etc.) nowadays, am I the only one who thinks that someone could win a contest with one of those bad boys? Seriously, the color scheme is fine, but it gets ugly at least to me once you get to the white embroidary-style trim on the sleeves and the faded snowflakes all over the jersey.
9.) Will the Force be with us on Friday?
The Devils are having a Star Wars night on Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, and I have to say I'm a bit sad that I won't be able to try and get tickets and make it down on Friday as I have a prior commitment. The Devils need 2 points badly against Detroit, so hopefully the players channel their inner Luke Skywalker, and imagine that whichever Wings goalie's five-hole is the Death Star's exhaust port and the puck is their torpedo.
10.) Cory's Got a New Mask!
TG's twitter also has pictures of Cory in his contest-winning mask - go check it out! Hopefully it winds up bringing us some good luck in our next few games!
Feel free to discuss one, multiple, or all of these topics in the comments below. Thank you guys as always for reading!