NEWARK, N.J. -- When New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello acquired defenseman Marek Zidlicky in February, no one could have imagined the positive impact he'd have in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Well, no one but Lamoriello and the Devils coaching staff.
"At the time we made the trade, we needed someone to come in and play top two minutes, and those guys aren't easy to find," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "Not only that, but come in and run your power play too, so when you're making that list of guys you're looking for and the needs you're looking to fill at the trade deadline, there's only two or three guys in that category. So for Lou to be able to go out and get one like him, we wouldn't be here without Marek."
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Lamoriello dealt right wing Nick Palmieri, defenseman Kurtis Foster, minor league left wing Stephane Veilleux and two draft picks to the Minnesota Wild for Zidlicky on Feb. 24. The move came at a time when the Devils were without rookie Adam Larsson (back) and Henrik Tallinder (blood clot).
"Zid brings more mobility to our defense," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "[Kurtis Foster] was good on the power play, but not a mobile guy, and we use Zid more as far as minutes. He's balanced our defense even more and that's why it was so important to pick up a guy like that, especially when you lose a guy like [Tallinder]. That created a hole that Zid was able to fill pretty good."
Zidlicky has proven to be all that and then some, particularly in three games against the Philadelphia Flyers during the team's Eastern Conference Semifinal round. The Devils lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 scheduled Sunday at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Zidlicky leads the team in ice time (25:39) per game in the playoffs and he's only two points shy of matching his career point total of six in 14 games entering this year's playoffs. The 35-year-old has four assists in the postseason for the Devils, including a pair during a 4-3 overtime victory over the Flyers in Game 3 on Thursday -- a game in which he saw 29:07 of ice time.
"I'm feeling OK," Zidlicky told NHL.com when asked about his big helpings of ice time. "Especially when you're in the game. It was a pretty tough first couple of games [following the trade]. You have to learn about the system because each player is different. It was a pretty tough couple of weeks, but after that I felt much better and guys and coaches helped with everything so that was pretty nice and right now I feel very comfortable with the team."
He's eighth on the team with 22 hits, second with 15 blocked shots and fourth with 24 shots on goal. He is also second behind Ilya Kovalchuk in power-play ice time.
"[DeBoer] really instills a team game and we're positive every shift," Zidlicky said. "It doesn't matter what happens on the ice, we just need to stay positive and play hard as a group. It's nice that everyone is chipping in, we don't rely on just one scorer."
Zidlicky waived his no-trade clause to join the Devils because he had fallen out of favor with the Wild organization. The 2001 sixth-round draft pick (No. 176) by the New York Rangers has one more year remaining on his deal at a $4 million cap hit.
"I like this team," Zidlicky said. "That's why I wanted the trade to be here and play with this team. I believed in this team before I was traded."
It seems as though the Devils are believing in Zidlicky when it matters most.Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale