NEWARK, N.J. -- Forward Alexei Ponikarovsky traveled with his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes, on Friday, in order to get acquainted with his new mates Saturday, the New Jersey Devils.
Ponikarovsky, who was acquired by the Devils from the Hurricanes in exchange for minor-league defenseman Joe Sova and a 2012 fourth-round draft pick on Friday night, is eager and excited to get started. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Ponikarovsky will make his Devils debut against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday at Prudential Center on the team's third line with David Clarkson and center Jacob Josefson.
"I'm excited to be here," Ponikarovsky said. "This team is battling for a playoff spot and it's always nice to be in a scrum like that. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to play here and do my best."
Coach Peter DeBoer is hoping Ponikarovsky will add some scoring depth.
"I think Lou [Lamoriello] and I have talked over the last couple of months, and I think he saw an opportunity to get a guy that can give us depth on third line … a veteran NHL presence who makes us deeper and bigger, and hopefully better," DeBoer said. "He'll play with Josefson and Clarkie. We've liked out first two lines. There's been chemistry there, so I think the upgrade was to try to get three lines that can score on a regular basis."
Ponikarovsky, 31, had seven goals and 15 points in 49 games for Carolina this season. He was scoreless in 15:20 of ice time in a 3-0 win Friday against Washington. He got word of the trade immediately following the victory against the Capitals.
"I got the news after finishing the game, got on the plane and got here and then got some sleep," Ponikarovsky said. "I was here [Friday] night because [Carolina] had to fly to New York anyway since we were playing the Islanders. I just got off plane and came here."
Was he surprised by the trade?
"It's part of the job," he said. "You play for one team one day, and then everything changes, so you just basically pack up [and] go wherever they send you. Carolina was in a position to trade some players and I was a free agent after the season, so maybe I was a target. But those things happen and you just move on and go and play as best you can for the other team."
Ponikarovsky is a four-time 20-goal scorer, most recently in 2009-10, but had just five goals and 15 points with the Los Angeles Kings last season. He signed with Carolina this summer as a free agent.
"Along with adding size and strength, Ponikarovsky also has the ability to play all three forward positions," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "He's a left shot and he's going to help our third line. We just have to get our third and fourth line straightened out and this is one step towards it."
In 603 regular-season games, Ponikarovsky has 128 goals, 296 points and 397 penalty minutes. He also has three goals and 10 points in 38 playoff games.
"I'm not thinking about [playing time] right now … I'm just taking it day-by-day and we'll go from there," Ponikarovsky said. "I learned a little about the system [on Saturday] and I'm going out there and bringing what I can. My size, shots and everything else … I'll bring my A-game. I'm never going to say I'm going to score 30 goals, but I'll play the system and be accountable."
DeBoer doesn't doubt that Ponikarovsky will play determined and hard.
"He's played with good coaches over the years," DeBoer said. "There were minor details he went over with [assistant coach] Dave Barr this morning that maybe we do differently than other teams.
"But you can never have enough size," he added. "We want to be a big, strong, hard team to play against and that's the identity we want to play with and he fits that. You can never have enough big bodies, especially come playoff time."
The deal comes one day after the 'Canes sent Jon Matsumoto and Mattias Lindstrom to Florida for Evgeni Dadonov and AJ Jenks in a four-forward swap. Ponikarovsky, who will wear jersey No. 12, is on a one-year contract for $1.5 million.
Lamoriello assigned right wing Mattias Tedenby to the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Albany. DeBoer said his fourth line against the Flyers will have Brad Mills centering Eric Boulton and Ryan Carter. Steven Zalewski, who has played seven games with the Devils this season, will be a healthy scratch.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will start Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes against the Devils. Bryzgalov is 2-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in three career appearances against New Jersey.
Here are the projected lineups for a Saturday afternoon game between the Devils and Flyers at Prudential Center:
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Brad Mills - Ryan Carter
Bryce Salvador - Mark Fayne
Matt Taormina - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Kurtis Foster.
Martin Brodeur will get the start in goal; Johan Hedberg will serve as backup.
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Max Talbot - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds
Jody Shelley - Bryaden Schenn - Harry Zolnierczyk
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Marc-Andre Bourdon - Matt Carle
Erik Gustafsson - Andrej Meszaros
Ilya Bryzgalov gets the start in goal; Sergei Bobrovsky will serve as backup.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale