The New Jersey Devils take on the Philadelphia Flyers today and it looks like the Devils lineup reverts back to a previous one we’ve seen. Certainly, the biggest change appears as a result of Timo Meier’s struggles.
Head coach Lindy Ruff isn’t afraid to tweak his lines, especially when something isn’t working. Following a 5-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, the forward group is in a blender once more. In order to get back on track and secure two points, Ruff offered some insight.
“We have to play our game,” Ruff said ahead of New Jersey’s matchup with Philly. “Be ready to compete in the small areas, win the battles. You win more of the battles, you get more puck possession and we get to play our game.”
Devils Morning Workflow
Erik Haula – Jack Hughes – Tyler Toffoli
Ondrej Palat – Nico Hischier – Jesper Bratt
Timo Meier – Dawson Mercer – Alexander Holtz
Curtis Lazar – Michael McLeod – Nathan Bastian
Jonas Siegenthaler – Simon Nemec
Kevin Bahl – John Marino
Brendan Smith – Luke Hughes
Vanecek was working in the starters crease this morning. It looks like whatever was physically laboring him has subsided. However, goaltender Nico Daws remains with the club on an emergency loan. He backed up Akira Schmid on Sunday. We’ll see if there’s a corresponding transaction if Vanecek is officially back in tonight, although it’s not like the Devils don’t have the roster space to hang onto Daws if they want to. Ruff did say Vanecek is feeling better and “both goalies are available.”
Brendan Smith is also seemingly returning to the lineup, this time as a defenseman. Colin Miller appears headed to the press box to watch from above as a result.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this morning’s skate was Ruff’s comments on Meier, the Devils’ highest-paid forward. Ruff alluded to the fact that Meier is healthy enough to continue playing, however, is still dealing with a nagging injury. It sounds like Ruff expects a little more from Meier as he’s been demoted, again, to the third line.
“I don’t know if he’s up to speed,” Ruff offered. “He doesn’t appear to be skating as well as he was pre-injury. The injury that he had does affect his skating. For me, he’s not close to his game he had before the injury. We’re trying to get him there and he’s gotta try hard to get there.”
There certainly is a clear difference in Meier’s day-to-day. Some nights he appears physically engaged, skating well, and is creating opportunities. Then there are nights when his skating looks off and he’s a little lost out there. It’s fair to question if he’s struggling so much, why doesn’t he take a night off to potentially further his recovery. We’ll see how much longer this can go on. Or perhaps, Meier flips a switch and this conversation is no longer.
Meier’s been back in the lineup for eight games since he was injured. He’s registered no points, 23 shots, and is a minus-5 during that span. Before the injury, he scored in three straight games.
Puck drop between the Devils and Flyers is at 7 P.M. tonight.