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Pandolfo back at practice

Niedermayer nears return to game action

Monday, 11.30.2009 / 3:43 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Pandolfo back at practice
Pandolfo has been out of commission since Oct. 24.
One by one, healthy bodies will soon begin to restock the Devils lineup.

Jay Pandolfo was the latest player to return to practice, and skated Monday on a line with Rob Niedermayer and Ilkka Pikkarainen. He has missed 15 games since suffering a shoulder injury at Pittsburgh on Oct. 24 and had been skating on his own for the past 10 days.

Pandolfo felt “pretty good” for his first day back.

“I’m just kind of taking it day to day,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing, to see how I feel.”

Though Pandolfo didn’t face much physical contact during his first team skate in more than a month, it was a change from his solo workouts.

“Having to react with another guy is definitely different than skating on your own,” he said.

Pandolfo didn't expect to be ready for Wednesday’s home game with Vancouver, but the December schedule will offer plenty of opportunities. Beginning on Dec. 2, Jersey’s Team will shoehorn seven games into 11 days.

“I don’t know about that,” Pandolfo said of facing the Canucks. “Probably not, but I’ll see how I feel tomorrow after skating today.”

Pandolfo's shoulder, and not his conditioning, will determine when he gets into the lineup.

“I’m feeling fine conditioning-wise,” he said. “I mean, you get into a game, it’s totally different, but I felt good through practice. That’s been the good thing, I’ve been able to continue skating for a little bit, so that’s helped.”

Once the Devils’ iron man, Pandolfo holds the fourth longest consecutive games streak in club history (307). He appeared in every game during three straight regular seasons from 2003-04 to 2006-07. A groin injury in 2007-08 cost him 28 games.

He tallied a goal and an assist in his first three contests before he was hurt in the ninth game of the season.

“It’s frustrating, but I guess it’s better to happen at this point in the season than happen at the end of the year,” he said. “You’ve still got a lot of the season left, which is good.”

Now he’s close to coming back.

“Pretty anxious, but I’ve waited this long so I might as well make sure I’m feeling 100 percent,” he said.

The Devils have overcome a long list of injured regulars to go 17-6-1, scripting one of the NHL’s remarkable stories through the first quarter of the season. Dainius Zubrus (leg, four games missed) and David Clarkson (leg, one game) blocked shots a week apart that will keep them both on the shelf for four to six weeks.

Through it all, Pandolfo has been impressed with the team’s resilience.

“I think it’s been great,” he said. “They’ve played really well and a lot of young guys have stepped up and played great, so it’s been really nice.”

Niedermayer has missed 11 games with an upper body injury, but could play Wednesday.

“I have to talk with the trainers, see what they say and sort of go from there,” he said. “We’ll see tomorrow. Hopefully it feels good again.”

Signed as a free agent on Sept. 25, Niedermayer recorded two goals and five assists in 13 games. He wouldn’t indicate that he was targeting Wednesday.

“I’d like to get back in the lineup as soon as I can,” he said. “It’s been a while.”

The centerman took part in the morning skate last Wednesday, then practiced with the team on Thanksgiving.

“It’s nice to practice with the team and with the guys instead of just skating laps,” he said.

Head coach Jacques Lemaire was left with a positive impression.

“They’re skating well,” Lemaire said. “It’s always the puck control and plays that you need a little more time. I’m pleased with looking at the way they’re skating.”

Lemaire offered more good news when he said Johnny Oduya (lower body, 13 games) would practice Tuesday. 

“It’s looking better, getting the guys back,” he said. “It’s a big thing for us, especially centers. Center is a huge position. You lose your centers – I’m pleased with what the other guys did there, the players that replaced them – but the regular guys that started at center, they’re good. It’s good that the ones that replaced them did well, so the team did well.”

It's not yet clear where Patrik Elias will play once Niedermayer is ready. Elias has clicked at center with Brian Rolston on his left wing, and they each had two goals and two assists in Saturday’s 6-1 romp over the Islanders.

“That’s the thing,” Lemaire said. “They’re playing well, so I might leave it like that. But it’s always a line that you can come back (to). Even if you put Patrik on the wing for a period, you can always come back and put him at center depending on teams we play and so on.”




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


K. Palmieri 82 30 27 3 57
A. Henrique 80 30 20 10 50
T. Zajac 74 14 28 3 42
M. Cammalleri 42 14 24 15 38
D. Severson 72 1 20 -8 21
R. Boucher 39 8 11 -13 19
D. Schlemko 67 6 13 -22 19
J. Moore 73 4 15 -12 19
A. Larsson 82 3 15 15 18
J. Blandisi 41 5 12 -14 17
C. Schneider 27 25 6 .924 2.15
K. Kinkaid 9 9 1 .904 2.81