Although Bobby Holik participated in his first practice today since he fractured his right pinky on Oct. 18, Devils coach Brent Sutter said Holik won't play in the team's next game on Thursday night in Philadelphia.
"He's back skating," Sutter said. "He won't be playing on Thursday. It's conditioning and just getting strength again in his hand."
Sutter sounded optimistic, however, that Brian Rolston could make his return Thursday from a high right ankle sprain and said that John Madden will definitely play against the Flyers after missing the last four games with a bruised left ankle.
"We'll see how tomorrow goes with Brian," Sutter said. "If things go good tomorrow with Brian, there will be a good chance he'll play Thursday. And Mad Dog for sure Thursday."
Rolston skated at right wing again today on the fourth line with Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and Mike Rupp.
Holik said things went well in his first practice. He had been skating for a week on his own. Prior to that, he worked out off the ice for a week following four weeks in which he was not allowed to do any physical activicity while he recovered from surgery on his pinky.
"It was first practice. I was excited," Holik said. "It's good to be back with the team and doing what we're here for."
Holik said he felt comfortable stickhandling. He had some tape wrapped around his pinky to gaurd against the friction inside of his glove, but said he is wearing no extra protection on it.
"I don't really have a long way to go to be my best," Holik joked about his stickhandling.
Holik said he didn't know how long it will take before he's ready to play. He sounded as if he wants to play Thursday (but that was before Sutter said he definitely would not.)
"I'm doing everything I can be ready as soon as I can," Holik said. "So, if I'm ready and (the coaches) think I'm ready then we begin the thought process. Tomorrow is another day."
Holik said he was cleared medically by the doctor on Monday to both practice and play in games.
Sutter said Petr Vrana was sent down to play in games because he probably would not be playing this week with the injured players returning.
"He needs to play a little," Sutter said. "With guys getting healthy, he probably would not be playing."
Sutter said defenseman Andy Greene (broken right hand) has not been cleared by doctors yet to begin practicing with the team. Greene has been skating on his own.