Devils coach Brent Sutter said the final decision won't be made until Sunday, but it appears captain Jamie Langenbrunner will return to the lineup for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center.
Langenbrunner has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury.
By mid-way through this morning's practice, Langenbrunner was back skating with his usual line with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac.
"The way I went on the line (in practice), I would imagine that I'm playing tomorrow," Langenbrunner said. "But [Sutter will] make that final decision and it depends on if I respond well again today, I guess."
Sutter cautioned against assuming that Langenbrunner will play in Game 6.
"We'll see tomorrow," Sutter said. "The decision will be made tomorrow."
Sutter admited Langenbrunner looked good in practice.
"I thought he looked good out there," Sutter said. "We'll see how he responds and make a decision at game-time tomorrow whether it happens or not."
Langenbrunner and defenseman Bryce Salvador (left knee) both will accompany the team on their flight to Raleigh this afternoon. Salvador plans to take part in Sunday's morning skate, but Sutter said Salvador won't play in Game 6.
Brian Rolston, who had been playing in Langenbrunner's place on Zajac's line, said he expected that he would go back to centering the fourth line between Mike Rupp and David Clarkson. That was where he skated for the second part of today's practice.
Sutter would not commit to that. He also would not say if Bobby Holik would come out of the lineup again to make room for Rolston's return.
"It's possible," Sutter said. "I don't want to say too much about it because I'm not sure what Jamie's status will be tomorrow. If he's good to play, then there's going to have to be a decision made who is going to come out, but I'm not sure who that's going to be, yet."
The Devils hold a 3-2 series lead over the Hurricanes and can wrap it up with a win Sunday. With the Devils ahead, there seems to be no rush for Langenbrunner to return, but he said there is urgency to finish off the Hurricanes and not let them get to a Game 7 on Tuesday.
"I don't think that's a mindset you have," Langenbrunner said of the idea not playing because the Devils are ahead in the series. "That's thinking that now we have something to play with. When you are ready to play, you want to if you can and I think you put your best lineup in if you have a chance and you don't want to give them any opportunity. It's not like we're up 3-0. It's 3-2 and it's a tight series and I'm ready to play. I want to be in there."
Today's practice was Langenbrunner's first since he was injured in Game 2 on April 17. Langenbrunner and Salvador skated on their own on Friday.
"I felt good," Langenbrunner said of today's practice. "I skated yesterday and felt good yesterday. Today, I got to go out there with those guys and I felt good."
Langenbrunner would not reveal the exact nature of his injury.
"I hurt my lower body," he said.
He said he still doesn't know how it happened. He limped off the ice after attempting a shot, but said he doesn't think that caused the injury.
"Honestly, I don't know what play it happened on," he said. "I can't imagine it was when I came off -- that shot that did it. I don't think so, but I don't know."
Salvador skated before the start of today's practice, but did not stay on the ice for the practice.
"I feel good," Salvador said. "I'm going to skate tomorrow in the pre-game skate."
Salvador still wouldn't admit that it was an injury to his left knee, though he immediately grabbed his knee after Chad LaRose fell on his left leg.
He said there was some swelling, but, "not too bad, actually."
Overall, he has recovered from the injury more quickly than he expected.
"Definitely," he said. "The initial thinking of what it (was), I'm definitely really happy and fortunate with where we're at now. Two or three days and I was back skating, so I can't complain about that at all."
Salvador said he did not know if he would wear a brace, but did not wear one the last two days when he was skating.