BY JEREMY TUCH | Joseph Blandisi (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)
The Devils really needed the All-Star break. Coming in, they were at the tail end of a string of injuries that swept through the team from top to bottom. Guys who’ve missed time include Michael Cammalleri, John Moore, Jon Merrill and Jacob Josefson. We aren’t even counting Patrik Elias, who’s missed most of the season so far, and probably will miss most of the remainder.
When injuries occur, someone needs to step up and do their best to replace the talent that went missing. Most often, it’s a young guy from the AHL, who plays a game or two, doesn’t do much, and then gets sent back down. In some cases, the injury replacement does very well, and deserves to be kept around. I think that the latter is the case of Joseph Blandisi.
Now that the All-Star break has come and gone, most of the Devils who’ve missed time with injury are back in action. That means the injury replacements all return to the minors, unless they’ve really impressed and garner a chance to stick with the big club. The injuries to the wingers are all but gone, so where does that leave us with Blandisi?
Let’s first take a look at Blandisi’s line of work so far with New Jersey. In his first call-up, he played in three games, didn’t register a point, but showed signs of success. He got called up again on Jan. 10, and proceeded to show everyone how good he can really be. In the eight games since, he’s gotten a goal and five assists, playing on a line with Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri.
His advanced stats are also good to see. Beyond the numbers, which are impressive enough, he’s been driving the play, using speed, skill and even a physical edge, to be a productive member of the team.
He’s shown he can make his linemates better, too. Zajac scored all of his points in January while playing with Blandisi. Palmieri is the same case, save a goal against Dallas right after New Year’s. Again, beyond the numbers, this line has been an excellent complement to the Henrique-Cammalleri-Stempniak line, filling out a top-six that can score goals in bunches.
The five-goal period against Ottawa two weeks ago really shows his full potential, and what he can do. Here’s a look back at some of the finer plays from that period:
He had a goal and a pair of assists, and each of his highlights showed a great example of his skill set.
The Devils have relied heavily on their top two lines to provide the offense, despite getting the odd goal from Bobby “Wild Thing” Farnham every once in a while. However, they’ve really struggled to find a third guy to fit with Palmieri and Zajac. They’ve tried with Jiri Tlusty, Sergei Kalinin and Tyler Kennedy, all with varying degrees of success, to be generous. The most recent try-out for the final top-six spot has been given to Blandisi, and it looks like he’s run away with it. He’s been developing a good chemistry with Zajac and Palmieri, and has shown he belongs in the NHL.
He got sent to the minors just before the break, but that could be just to keep his conditioning up to par. He hasn’t played in a game for Albany since the send down, so it leads us to believe that he’s going to return before the game against the rival Rangers. I, for one, am ecstatic that he could be coming back. Most of the Devils’ community share the same feeling of joy. He’s really impressed so far, and has shown to me that he belongs.