The Devils Celebrated the 21 years of service that Mike “Doc” Emrick has given to the New Jersey Devils as their announcer. This season, he stepped away from the microphone and the TV cameras to take on a new role with NBC Sports. This would allow for Doc to travel less and start making steps towards semi-retirement. His decision to call it quits as the Devils play-by-play announcer had more to do with growing older, wanting to travel less and spend more time with his family.
In what is usually a momentous night for hockey when legends are celebrated, this match was a tough challenge for the Devils. The Canucks took a two-goal lead in the first 22:07 of the game. The Devils were only able to get a lone goal at 11:30 in the second period from David Clarkson. Vancouver’s backup goaltender Cory Schneider kept the Devils out of their net. He’s an asset the Canucks are fortunate to have.
“I think he was pretty damn good tonight,” Petr Sykora said after the game.
“Schneider was pretty spectacular,” Martin Brodeur said. “He made some good saves.”
“Listen, he’s the number one goalie in the league,” Patrik Elias said of Schneider. “There’s going to be 29 teams in line for him to get him when the time is right. He’s that good.”
In 22 games, Schneider is 13-5-0, with a 2.25 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Combined with Roberto Luongo’s 26-11-6, 2.33 GAA and .921 save percentage, the Canucks have two of the best netminders in the league that have helped their squadron sit at the top of the Northwest Division with 86 points (as compared to the Devils’ 74 points). No other team in the Eastern Conference has comparable numbers to the Canucks (or Detroit).
As the Devils and Canucks played, the media was somewhat distracted from the game, because bigger news was taking place while the game was in motion. The Devils and Minnesota Wild shook hands on a deal that would send Marek Zidlicky to the Devils in exchange for Kurtis Foster, Nick Palmieri, Stephane Veilleux, a 2012 NHL Entry Draft second-round pick, and a conditional pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
“We gave up a lot,” Brodeur said. “Hopefully, he’ll be a good player. We’re definitely excited to get a top defenseman on our team…a guy that gets to play the power play.”
Zidlicky was rumored to be heading to the Devils over the last two weeks. The 35-year old defenseman has been on the Devils’ radar since he was in Nashville. They tried to acquire him then, but he instead went to the Minnesota Wild. In his career, he has a total of 60 goals, 40 of which came on the power play. He also has 238 assists and 494 penalty minutes in 547 games over eight seasons with Nashville and Minnesota.
Zidlicky will be no stranger to the Czechs in the locker room. He’s known Elias since they were teenagers, and has been a teammate to Sykora in Minnesota.
When asked about the trade, Sykora asked who was traded and then responded, “How come you know that before me?”
“Obviously, I know Marek,” he said. “He’s a very good defenseman and has some toughness, too. He doesn’t mind to throw his body around. He can really move the puck and can make some great plays. I think he’s going to be a very good fit.”
How good is Zidlicky?
“We’ll see,” Elias said jokingly. “No, I think he’s going to be a big help. Offensively, he’s really good. He’s got a mean streak to him. I’ve known him since we were 14 years old. He’s a great friend to me. Hopefully, this is a big help for us. I’m glad to see him in our uniform.
“Last time he text me, he asked me about a week ago how we played out there. Hopefully, I’ll have a text now…probably to pick him up from the airport tomorrow. He’s going to need a ride and a place to stay.
“I think he’s going to fit in perfect,” he continued. “Up tempo game, for his D to pinch in at a certain time, be always involved…I think that’s the game we’re playing. I think defensively, he can be a big difference. He can have a mean streak to him.”
“[I'm] excited,” coach Peter DeBoer said of the trade. “It shows Lou’s belief in the group and what we have going here. It’s always a high price to pay, and we appreciate the efforts of Foster, Palmieri and Veilleux and what they gave to the organization. This makes us better. Even more important, I think it sends a message to the guys in the room from up top that we have a strong belief in what we’re doing and what we’re capable of.”
Zidlicky was coming from Dallas, and was not available in time to make Saturday’s practice until after it was over. He dressed and came out onto the ice as players were leaving the ice. He was wearing the number two (originally worn by Foster). They will do what they can to try and fit him into the game on Sunday when the Devils faceoff against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lamoriello on the Zidlicky Trade
“We had an opportunity to get an experienced, right shot, puck moving defenseman, who can also quarterback the power play,” Devils’ President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello said of the Zidlicky trade. “He’s had a lot of experience.”
The Devils gave up a lot for just one defenseman. Was it too much?
“We felt it was something we wanted to do,” he said. “None of them were really playing regularly, as far as at this point. We felt that this was something to get it done.”
Foster was acquired back on December 12th from the Anaheim Ducks. What prompted the GM to move the defenseman again?
“In my opinion, we had a chance to get somebody who was better suited to play 5-on-5, moving the puck out of the zone, and jumping in the offense that way he can with the type of forwards that we have at this point.”
Does this move make the Devils better?
“We certainly wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t think it would make our team better,” he said.
Was this move for a defenseman a direct result of the injured defensemen Adam Larsson and Henrik Tallinder?
“I don’t think it came into play, because we knew that Adam would be back soon. But the thought process of having some of the young players without big game experience did come into play when we had an opportunity to get one.”
“We have every hope to,” he said of expecting Tallinder to return soon.
Zidlicky wanting to come to the Devils played into the trade.
“That absolutely plays into it,” Lamoriello said. “The player’s stature that he wanted to come here.”
As for the timing of the trade, Lamoriello said that when the trade was announced (during the game), it was done. It didn’t happen before the game. He said that, “It’s never announced until it’s done.”
“We certainly don’t like announcing a trade during the game or having it happen the way that it did tonight. Unfortunately, you can’t predict these things…timing. Zidlicky is in Dallas.”
With this trade, are the Devils done? Or are they looking to make some more moves?
“You never know,” he responded. “You make a team better…you do it.”
Zidlicky’s relationship with Elias and Sykora did not play into the trade.
“We had two people that knew him probably better than anyone. Jacques Lemaire…(Zidlicky) played for him there in Minnesota. Post-Jacques Lemaire, Dave Barr coached in Minnesota last year. I don’t think you can have a better evaluation of a player than people that are on your own staff.
“Of course, he was a player that we had a lot of interest in when he was traded from Nashville. He was a player we had looked at for a period of time.”