The Devils have today off to lick their wounds after being carved up by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in a 4-1 loss to the Penguins Saturday night at Mellon Arena.
The Devils, who had their five-game winning streak snapped, don't play again until Thursday in Phiadelphia, so it probably makes sense to make today a day off. I'm in the airport awaiting my flight home. The airport is pretty crowded today with it being the end of Thanksgiving weekend. We were hearded to an alternate security checkpoint, which still had a long line, but it went pretty quickly.
While I'm waiting for my plane, I'll share some of my observations from Saturday nights' game.
**Crosby and Malkin are pretty good (no kidding). Crosby recorded his second career hat trick and also had an assist. Malkin had two assists and was quite impressive with his stickhandling. That one move where he flipped the puck up in the air, past Paul Martin, and batted it down might have been a high stick, but was still unbelievable.
**Crosby appeared to enjoy not having to face John Madden. It was probably the best game of his career against the Devils, who have had trouble with Malkin in the past, but usually do a pretty good job on Sid. This was a reminder that the Devils - when healthy - need Madden and Jay Pandolfo checking the top line of the opponent. They got away with it against Tampa Bay last week, but the Lightning are terrible, so you might get away with taking your chances some nights with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
It sounds like Madden will be back from his bruised left ankle this week. Thursday will be two weeks since he was injured and he has been skating with the other injured Devils, so it doesn't appear the team is hiding a more serious injury.
Bobby Holik (broken pinky) might also be ready soon, but he's only been skating for a week after being off the ice for five weeks.
I'm hesitant to guess how far away Brian Rolston is from playing. Rolston (high right ankle sprain) has been skating for a couple of weeks, but something must be holding him back from practicing with the team. I have a feeling it's possible we might not see him before Christmas. Remember how long it took Crosby to come back from his high ankle sprain. He missed 29 total games (21 games initially and then another eight after he came back too soon .Rolston has missed 18 games so far.
**Paul Martin and Bryce Salvador had a tough night playing against Crosby. The Devils didn't have Madden to slow up Crosby and the defense had trouble with his speed. Malkin's speed also seemed to overwhelm the Devils.
**Playing Sheldon Brookbank with Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta in the third period Satuday was not one of Brent Sutter's finest moments as a coach. I know he had limited options with Dainius Zubrus weakened by a stomach bug, but there were other things he could have done. As I said at the time, I would have put Zach Parise up with Elias (at center) and Gionta and taken my chances that way. He could have put someone else (possibly) Mike Rupp with Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner and cobbled togehter a third line.
**One thing is clear: Sutter does not believe Petr Vrana can play quality minutes in the NHL. That Sutter continued to play Barry Tallackson (he even used him with Elias and Gionta in the third period after the failed Brookbank experiment) after his second period blunder on Crosby's second goal, showed that he has more trust in Tallackson than Vrana, who played only four shifts for 1:38 Saturday. That Brookbank also played with Elias and Gionta over Vrana also says a lot.
I don't know what the answer is with Vrana. He has not played well in his own end. At some point, Sutter might have to give him a chance to do more, though.
**I've understood Sutter's use of Brookbank, a defenseman, as right wing on the fourth line and it's actually worked out well for the most part, but on a night like Saturday when Zubrus is ill, the Devils need to call up another forward and dress him in case Zubrus can't play the full game (which is how it turned out). The Devils had all day Saturday to make a move and always say that Lowell is not that far away. They can't have a situation where Sutter has to turn to Brookbank to play in an offensive role in a game in which the team is trailing by two goals, but still in position to come back and win the game.