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Bergfors and Halischuk at Tuesday practice

Tuesday, 10.28.2008 / 4:33 PM / News
By Eric Marin
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Bergfors and Halischuk at Tuesday practice

Halischuk participates in a drill at Tuesday's practice.

newjerseydevils.com –
Brent Sutter wants Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik back in the lineup as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Devils' head coach is eager to see what Nicklas Bergfors and Matt Halischuk can produce.

The two rookies were called up from Lowell (AHL) a day after Rolston (ankle) and Holik (finger) were placed on injured reserve, retroactively. Rolston is progressing ahead of schedule, and Holik was set to have the stitches removed from his hand following surgery on Oct. 21.

Bergfors made his NHL debut with an appearance in the Devils' 2007-08 regular-season opener.
Bergfors and Halischuk took part in Tuesday's practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion, and Sutter said it's "healthy" for the organization to have young players capable of stepping up when called upon.

"You're putting younger kids in, but they're good players," Sutter said. "It gives them an opportunity. We've lost two games in a row, and we've got some guys banged up, so it's a good time to see what they can do."

Bergfors has one game of NHL experience under his belt after appearing in New Jersey's regular-season opener in 2007-08. Halischuk, meanwhile, will be the fourth player to make his NHL debut with the club this season.

"They're two different types of players," Sutter said. "Bergfors is someone that relies on his skill and should be more of an offensive player. Matt's more of an all-around player. One guy will probably see more power-play time than the other, and the other guy probably gets more penalty-kill time than the other. They're both good players in their own right."

Sutter tried some new line combinations in practice, matching Bergfors with Dainius Zubrus and Patrik Elias, and placing Halischuk on the right side with John Madden and Jay Pandolfo. Brian Gionta joined Travis Zajac and Zach Parise, while Petr Vrana shifted to the fourth line with David Clarkson and Mike Rupp.

Vrana, who debuted this season after making the team in training camp, initially filled Rolston's spot on a line with Zubrus and Elias. Sutter has been pleased with his contributions.

"I've been very happy with Petr," he said. "He's got that skill level, and you can put him on any line and he can play any of the three forward positions. He gives us a different element. I've been very happy with Petr, and he's done a good job."

Now another wave of New Jersey's young talent gets a shot. Said Sutter of the decision to skate Halischuk with Madden and Pandolfo: "It'll be interesting to see how he fits in with Mad Dog and Pando [Wednesday] because he's a smart player and can think the game. His awareness defensively is outstanding and he's put some numbers up."

Langenbrunner (lower body) may take part in Wednesday's morning skate, but is not expected to play when the Devils face Toronto at Prudential Center. Rookie Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond did not skate Tuesday and has been slowed by a crack in his orbital bone.

"We want those guys to get back as soon as they can get back, and yet, it's a great opportunity for these young kids to show us what they have," Sutter said. "There are always decisions to be made, not just now, but as you move forward. It's always nice to know what you have in your system."

Sutter believes it will be a smooth transition for the two youngsters, who are already familiar with the Devils' style of play.

"We play a structured game here and you have to play within it," the head coach said. "This is the regular season. A lot of the things we do here they do down [in Lowell] too. It's not as though they're coming into something that's totally new to them. They kind of know already what they have to do. You need them to play a structured game and yet use their skills within that."

NJD NOTES
Sutter on Halischuk: "He's a very intelligent player who can skate. His awareness is very good, he's good defensively. He's a real smart player with a good understanding of the game. He's been a well-coached player. He knows the game."

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