Mike Cammalleri will play tonight; what it means for the New Jersey Devils.


The New Jersey Devils finally got some good news as Mike Cammalleri confirmed that he will return to the lineup tonight. The Devils are in Boston to take on the Bruins in the first half of a back-to-back and after losing three straight, they need all the help they can get. Unfortunately, Cammalleri is the only one of the walking wounded that the Devils were able to get back today as Martin Havlat isn’t quite ready to play yet and he remains on IR. Adam Henrique, Ryane Clowe and Jon Merrill did not even make the trip to Boston so it was clear they wouldn’t be ready to play tonight. After the Devils sent Mike Sislo back to Albany over the weekend, it looked like either Cammalleri or Havlat would be ready tonight – although everyone hoped it would be both.

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As it is, Mike Cammalleri is the skater that makes his return tonight and he is believed to slide back into his familiar slot on the top line alongside Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr. What does this mean for, not only the Devils, but that line in particular? Since Cammalleri got injured about two weeks ago, the Devils’ top line has been a mess. There has been no consistency, and frankly no production from the line. The reason for this drop-off has been the rotation of lesser wingers that have been forced to play in a role they shouldn’t be in. The three most common players that filled in for Cammalleri were Dainius Zubrus, Ryane Clowe and Damien Brunner. While all three of those players have their own specific skills and abilities that help the team, none of them is really a top line player. Injuries forced Peter DeBoer to try and find an answer until Cammalleri came back, but he just couldn’t do it. Nothing seemed to work.

To see just how much the injury to Cammalleri has hurt the Devils’ offense, you have to look no further than the team leader in goals. When Cammalleri went down, he led to the team with five goals. Today, the team’s leading goal scorer this season is Mike Cammalleri with five goals. The offense seemed to disappear without Cammalleri in the lineup, along with the other players as well. Having Cammalleri back and on the top line makes the Devils’ offense click. He draws defenders, is strong on the puck and makes the players around him better. In the six games since his injury, neither Travis Zajac nor Jaromir Jagr has been able to score a goal. The Devils needed him back. Zajac and Jagr needed him back.

The other person who desperately needs his linemates back is Patrik Elias. Elias started the season great with three points in three games playing with a healthy Martin Havlat. Then Havlat got hurt in Washington, missed a game, returned against the Rangers, got hurt again and hasn’t played since. Elias has looked lost without his countryman and good friend on his wing. The only time Elias looked right again was when he played with Adam Henrique, who then subsequenty got injured as well. Elias is 38, but he’s still a very good player. At this point in his career, however, he can’t do it on his own. He needs support from talented players, namely Martin Havlat and Adam Henrique. When the Devils get back to full strength and the line of Elias, Henrique and Havlat is able to play together… Patrik Elias will make people remember just how good he is.

In summation, Mike Cammalleri returns and solidifies the Devils’ top line. They’re going to need to bring their best effort tonight against Boston, although they catch a break with some of the Bruins’ top players out with injuries as well. The key word: effort. If the Devils can play a full 60 minutes, there’s no reason why they can’t win, especially with their best offensive weapon back in the fold.