The Devils, winners of seven straight games, will be on Garden ice tonight to face the Bruins, who begin the day tucked comfortably into first place in the Eastern Conference with 75 points–well ahead of the likes of Washington (64), New Jersey (63) and the Rangers (62).
Phil Kessel, sidelined the last six games while recovering from mononucleosis, will be back in the lineup.
Michael Ryder, who needed a couple of days to recover from flu-like symptoms, also will be back at right wing.
The Bruins had only a smattering of players on the ice for an optional morning workout on Causeway Street. Goalie Tim Thomas, tonight’s starter, was among the on-ice participants. Last week in Toronto, Thomas skipped the traditional morning workout (also an optional) prior to facing the Leafs.
Thomas will have understudy Tuukka Rask backing up, with veteran Manny Fernandez still recovering from another bout of back woes.
Asked if he’ll ride all the way with Thomas during a busy stretch in the schedule (including back-to-back matinees this weekend with the Rangers and Habs), coach Claude Julien said, ”To be honest, I don’t look that far ahead.”
Julien was impressed Tuesday with the work of defenseman Andrew Ference, who returned after a two-month absence, having broken his leg on a shot by Andrei Markov.
”He played well, especially for a guy who had only played 16 games before he got hurt,” said Julien. ”To do that [well], after not being in the lineup for two months, that’s a tribute to him.”
Ex-BC goalie Scott Clemmensen, sensational in relief this season of injured icon Martin Brodeur, is the likely starter. Clemmensen is 20-9-1 this season in 30 decisions. Prior to this season, he was a career 8-7-4 in the NHL since leaving the Chestnut Hill campus in May 2001.
Brodeur, recovering from early season surgery to repair a tendon near his left biceps, could begin taking shots as early as tomorrow. He’ll likely need 2-3 weeks before he is able to get back on the job.
Tonight’s referees: Wes McCauley and Tom Kowal.
Tonight’s linsemen: Derek Amell and Tim Nowak.