Talking Red

Devils Re-Acquire Ponikarovsky, Zubrus Out 2-8 Weeks

Posted in on by EJ Fagan

Two big news items tonight. First, the Devils have re-acquired Alexei Ponikarovsky from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a 7th round pick in this coming draft and a 4th round pick in 2014. Why did the leave the team in the first place? From TG:

Poni will play on Friday against the Flyers, and will be very welcome. Not playing will be Dainus Zubrus. From TG again:

They aren’t kidding about “exploratory” here. Something is obviously wrong with Zubrus, but they don’t see to have any idea what’s up. Zubrus could either be back 10 games from now, or the Devils may have to wait until just two weeks before the playoffs begin. Thus are injuries in the short season.

In the mean time, what will the Devils lines look like? As far as I am concerned, there are two possibilities: Poni slots in on the top line with Kovalchuck and Zajac, or DeBoer tries to create a real 3rd line out of Jacob Josefson, Ponikarovsky, and Bobby Butler or Stefan Matteau.

The case for slotting Ponikarovsky on the top line is that Kovalchuck and Zajac have been horribly unproductive at even strength. Zajac has just 3 points on the season, and one in his last seven games, and Kovalchuck has done almost all of his productive on the power play, shorthanded or 4 on 4. This is clearly not a case of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, and a more capable left wing is a highly plausible fix for the problem. Ponikarovsky is not your ideal top scoring line left winger, but he’s probably better than Stefan Matteau or Bobby Butler.

The case for using him to try and build an actual 3rd line is that the Devils need an actual 3rd line. Krys Barch played 9:47 against Pittsburgh, and that’s not a good thing. DeBoer clearly wants to keep the Gionta line together, and they’ve mostly proved that he is making the right decision there, even if they are not a competitive 3rd line. Jacob Josefson needs some players to play with, and Ponikarovsky is as good as its going to get until either Dainus Zubrus gets back or the Devils bring in a better player. When Zubrus does return, you can imagine Zubrus-Josefson-Poni being a pretty good checking line that can score some goals.

Of course, this is unlikely to be the last roster move we see this season. The Devils are clear buyers, and have a not-so-useless asset in Henrik Tallinder to sell for another forward. Lou should do it sooner rather than later. Jarome Iginla would look great in black and red.

The big loser here? Mattieu Darche, who is still practicing with the team although the Devils seem like they would rather call up random AHL veterans and burn a raw 18 year-old’s entry-level contract instead of signing him to a contract. I have faith that Darche could play reasonable well, but if I were him I would start looking for another team.