Clarkson excited to return tonight
“I don’t think I have an 'easy switch' in me,” Clarkson said. “I’m going to go out there and give it everything I have and see how it goes. But I feel ready. I’ve practiced with the team now a couple of times and was practicing by myself for a while, so we’ll see. Now it’s just up to them where they fit me in and whether they put me back to where I was; what the scenario is. I just have to do my job. I feel good and I’m sure tonight I’ll feel fine too. I don’t feel any discomfort or that anything’s slowing me down. If I felt slow, I wouldn’t play. I feel I’m ready to go.”
The 25-year-old is still working to overcome some of the lingering effects of the injury. Clarkson had amassed 15 points in 23 games before the bone above his right ankle was broken by a Zdeno Chara slapshot.
“You have little pains, like muscle stuff, but nothing too serious,” he said. “The bone has healed, so I just have to get back out there. It’s driving me crazy sitting on my couch. It’s better to be in here with the guys and playing than sitting there watching. It’s great to be back.”
Clarkson’s biggest impact could be on the Devils’ power play. Three of his seven goals have come on the man advantage, something Jacques Lemaire attributes to Clarkson’s presence around the net.
“He’s good around the net, to bring pucks at the goalie from the goal line; to get in front, look for rebounds,” said the Devils head coach. “He’s solid on his skates, has a long reach, and he’s got good moves.”
Clarkson said he watched plenty of games while on the shelf for the first time in his NHL career, and hopes to apply what he’s learned.
“As hard as it was, the team was winning, so you’re happy,” he said. “Every night, you’re like, ‘OK, we’re doing well.’ I think just as a competitor you never want to be sidelined. You never want to sit and watch your team. It’s just that edge that you have as a player. You just don’t accept (that you can’t play). I’ve never been hurt before, this is my first real injury where I’ve missed any amount of games.
"But I did definitely watch, and you pick up on things like guys that move their feet… things they do that make them stand out. You hope when you come back you remember some of those things and try to make yourself a better player.”
Lines at morning skate:
Parise - Zajac - Langenbrunner
Rolston - McAmmond - Elias
Pandolfo - Niedermayer - Zharkov
Peters - Pelley - Clarkson