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Langenbrunner confident after struggling last season

Tuesday, 02.03.2009 / 11:09 AM / Player Profiles

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

The most challenging summer of Jaime Langenbrunner's career certainly appears to be a distant memory right about now.

Entering Tuesday's matchup with the Washington Capitals, the New Jersey Devils’ captain had already matched last season's total of 41 points on 14 goals and 27 assists. He's been a tower of strength for a Devils team that has gone 9-1-0 over their last 10 and stands third in the Eastern Conference with 32 wins and 67 points.

He really came to life last week, erupting for 6 goals, including 3 game-winners, 7 points and a plus-7 rating in four victories. For his efforts, Langenbrunner, who had just 8 goals in 46 games prior to the All-Star break, was honored as the NHL's First Star of the Week and First Star for the month of January -- posting 17 points in 14 games.

Call it renewed confidence. Call it being in a zone. Just don't call it a fluke.

"I definitely feel more comfortable this year than last," Langenbrunner told NHL.com. "I'd by lying if I said anything different."

In addition to missing New Jersey's first 17 games while recuperating from offseason sports hernia surgery at the start of the 2007-08 season, the 33-year-old wing was named the eighth captain in franchise history Dec. 5 -- a designation that would certainly test his mettle.

"I put a lot on myself and it was difficult at first, especially when things didn't go well," Langenbrunner said. "When the team struggled, it was tough. It was a long summer for me (following the playoff loss to the Rangers). I probably let it get to me a little bit. At the end of the year, I sat down with Brent (Sutter) and we had a 5-6 hour meeting one day and that really helped."

It wasn't so much a meeting to regain his focus. Rather, it was one that confirmed Sutter's belief in him as a leader. As Sutter would later explain, there may have been a communication gap between the first-year coach and the first-time captain, but that's all water under the bridge.

"I came into this season with a good attitude and was comfortable with my role as a captain and all in all, it's a pretty good year so far," Langenbrunner said. "Brent re-affirmed that he wanted me as captain of the team and that was good to hear because I started doubting myself after last year."

That said, why has it still taken Langenbrunner more than 45 games to finally score on a consistent basis this season?

"I think the main thing is just being able to relax a little bit," Langenbrunner said. "I was getting the opportunities and getting three or four shots a game, but now, I think our line (Langenbrunner-Zach Parise-Travis Zajac) has been playing pretty well. Zach has found a way to score on a pretty consistent basis, and I think Travis and I could learn a little something from him. For whatever reason, I just feel a little more relaxed out there and the pucks are finding their way into the net."

Parise, who leads the Devils with 29 goals and 58 points, has learned a lot sitting beside Langenbrunner in the dressing room.

"I've been next to him for the past couple of years and I really pay attention to the way he carries himself," Parise said. "In the tight games, you can tell he's been there because he's calm and relaxed. Ask anyone on this team and they'll tell you that I do tend to get worked up sometimes, so Jamie's good for a little hit in the head. He's done a great job as captain and everyone looks up to and respects him. You know that whenever he steps on the ice, he's going to play very hard."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Langenbrunner is the first Devil to score overtime goals in consecutive games -- scoring 1:11 into overtime against the Bruins Thursday and four minutes into the extra session against the Penguins Friday.

"I'm a lot more comfortable in the dressing room this year," Langenbrunner said. "The guys have been great in backing me up. We have a ton of guys here who could be captain of this team and they've been great as leaders and have helped me. Losing Marty (Brodeur) to injury was a bit of a change, but all of us kind of stepped up and said, 'This is our team.' The attitude has been great."

Langenbrunner, who is in his 12th NHL season and seventh with the Devils, admits he does take pride in his role as captain after learning from the best.

"I spoke to many friends, including Joe Nieuwendyk, when I learned I would become captain," said Langenbrunner, who teamed with Nieuwendyk in Dallas and New Jersey. "As far as I'm concerned, he was one of the best leaders I've ever been around, so I contacted him to get some advice. He told me to be myself because that was the reason I was named captain in the first place."
"I definitely feel more comfortable this year than last. I'd by lying if I said anything different." -- Jamie Langenbrunner

It's also the reason he's finding his groove as an offensive provider for his team as well. In particular Parise and Zajac -- the line has combined for 58 goals and 141 points.

"He's playing with a lot of confidence right now and burying all his chances," Zajac said. "He's working hard and playing hard and making smart plays. As a leader and the captain of this team that's what we expect from him and he's doing a great job."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.

Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season