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Lineup Lamentation

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The New Jersey Devils came into the season without much depth in their forward group. Now with the injury bug biting, the team has grown even weaker up front. We examine the injured and their replacements today.

This man has been the only replacement Devil that I feel has done a good job.
This man has been the only replacement Devil that I feel has done a good job.
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries are a part of any sport, and we as fans expect them to happen at a given point in a season.  For our New Jersey Devils, I don't think anyone expected to have this many injuries at one time.  It seems as though players are going out in pairs game after game with new injuries.  The Devils have already had only a small crew that they were depending on to put the puck in the net, and with recent injuries, that list has only grown shorter.  Today we look at who's out, who's replacing them, what they've done, and where the team stands.

The Laundry List

Just in case you're keeping score at home, here are the following players the Devils are missing:

Injuries as of 1/14

Please note for this chart that "Games Missed" refers to the number of games the player has missed with their most recent exit from the lineup.

It's quite a list in its own right, and doesn't even mention that David Schlemko and Tyler Kennedy just returned from injury themselves earlier this week against the Minnesota Wild.  In the meantime, while jokes have been made in the past about the Devils icing an "AHL team against NHLers," there was some truth to it this past week due to the sheer number of call-ups on the ice at any one time.

This list also does not include Jordin Tootoo, who may or may not be injured after his fight with Ryan Reeves from Tuesday.  We will have to wait and see if there's another hole to be plugged in tonight's lines.  The team has also been without key players for other stretches of the 2015-16 season, but up until this point, we did not have this many players missing action at one time.

Impressions

First and foremost I can't understand Marc-Andre Gragnani on the power play let alone being the defense's lone call-up; he did not look impressive at all in his preseason appearances, and somehow looked worse during the last few games.  Eric Gelinas may not be playing his best hockey, and he hasn't even put that many points on the board this season, but he still looks like more of an NHLer than MAG does.  When Schlemko and Moore were both unavailable, and the team needed another defender, I would think almost any other defenseman on Albany's roster would have been a better choice.

Paul Thompson is a 27 year old who is getting his first taste of NHL play; while his linemates are leaving something to be desired, he hasn't done all that much to impress.  In fact, the most memorable thing he's done with toss a blind, easily intercepted pass back towards the blue line.  Thompson should be scratched for Stefan Matteau who has been equally unimpressive, but is at least not making boneheaded plays; sadly with Farnham suspended, the Devils may be playing both.

Jim O'Brien's play can be described as "meh" at best; he's not playing awful and he seems to understand the system well enough, but he's basically a fourth liner being forced to play as a third liner due to injuries; even if we deem his line the fourth line, that still means we're playing two lines with fourth line talent.

Joseph Blandisi had a small taste of the NHL earlier this season and I have to say of all the players called up, Blandisi is the only one I still have hope for as being a frequent contributor at the NHL level.  He looks hungry; he goes out and plays hard every shift; he's currently playing alongside Adam Henrique and Lee Stempniak and looks right at home with them.  I do believe Cam will replace him when he returns, but there's still a slot for a left shot in our top 6 next to Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri.  At this point, I truly have to think that Hynes needs to ponder waiving Ruutu/Tlusty in favor of Blandisi if and when everyone is healthy.

Playoff Contention(?)

The worst part of all these injuries is the timing of them; right now the Devils are on their longest road trip of the season and started it sitting in one of the Wild Card spots for the playoffs.  Personnel losses have led to player losses and as of this writing the team sits tied in points with the Boston Bruins for the last playoff spot, but technically in 9th due to the Bruins having games in hand.

The more troubling situation is the teams sitting just behind us in the standings; two of our rivals are close enough to leap us within their next few games (Pittsburgh Penguins 46 points, 2 games; Philadelphia Flyers 45 points, 3 games) and Ottawa and even Carolina are close enough that if they win their next couple of games and we don't gain points, they will leap us too.

The Devils have played their hearts out this year under John Hynes, but it seems as though the lack of good depth might be the undoing of this season.  What do you think of all of the injuries piling up in New Jersey?  How have the replacement splayed in your opinion?  Is there anyone that you think should have been called up in place of those who were?  Are the Devils still a playoff contender?  Leave your comments below and as always thanks for reading!