Despite a tough loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday night, the New Jersey Devils could be close to returning to full strength. It appears winger Brian Rolston is back practicing with the team, and is even a possibility to be in the lineup for the Devils on Thursday in Philadelphia. Rolston has been out since Oct. 16, when he got hurt with a high ankle sprain.
On a seperate front, it appears John Madden will be returning to the Devils lineup. He appears to be close enough to 100 percent that he will return to the lineup on Thursday as well. He has been out the last four games after taking a shot off his ankle/foot area.
Also added to the mix for Thursday will be rookie Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, who was recalled from Lowell. With the possibility of three forwards returning to the lineup, it begs the question of who will come out of the lineup. You would think the easy answer would be to scratch the current fourth line of Sheldon Brookbank, Petr Vrana and Barry Tallackson.
My guess is the Devils will error on the side of caution with Brian Rolston and hold him out one additional game, possibly two, to make sure he is 100 percent when he returns to the lineup.
Before you know it, the Devils could find themselves at full-strength skater wise, as both Bobby Holik and Andy Greene do not seem far off from returning to the team. They both continue to skate, and its possible Holik could return to practice on Tuesday, per the Fire & Ice Blog, written by The Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti.
If all of these guys come back, we might then finally get a better sense of where the Devils stand, and whether or not they have what it takes to compete for the Stanley Cup. Up until now, it's been more of a fight just to stay afloat. If they can put it all together and pick up a healthy Martin Brodeur in March, who knows what may be able to happen.
Then we can start talking about which players should play together, and how good we think the Devils may or may not be.