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Devils pleased as punch with Kovalchuk addition

Friday, 02.05.2010 / 1:18 PM / 2010 Trade Deadline

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Devils pleased as punch with Kovalchuk addition
New Jersey Devils players are pleased and excited about adding Ilya Kovalchuk to the roster and know they are now expected to win.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Lou Lamoriello's message was emphatically delivered to the New Jersey Devils shortly before 8 o'clock Thursday night.

By acquiring superstar winger Ilya Kovalchuk, a two-time 50-goal scorer who may only be a rental player for the rest of this season, the Devils believe Lamoriello was telling them they can win the Stanley Cup this season.

"It definitely sends a big message to our hockey club that he believes," goalie Martin Brodeur said Friday morning after Kovalchuk skated with his new team for the first time. "He's done it in the past, but not in a while, so he must really think we have something special going for him to do what he did yesterday."

Lamoriello brought Kovalchuk to the Devils from Atlanta in exchange for defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie right wing Niclas Bergfors, high-end prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft pick. The Devils also received defenseman Anssi Salmela and will swap second-round picks with the Thrashers.

The Devils have been starving for offense lately, and according to Brodeur, who has been in New Jersey since 1993, they have never had a player with Kovalchuk's offensive ability and now their offensive depth may be the best in team history, too.

Once Patrik Elias returns to the lineup, which should be before the Olympic break, the Devils will have at least seven forwards who are proven scorers in Kovalchuk, Elias, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rolston and Dainius Zubrus.

"Definitely for his size and ability, he's a guy that we never really saw here in Jersey. We had some good players, but this guy is a top dog. Everybody wants him and you'll see when he becomes a free agent everybody will throw everything they can at him. It'll be like if (Alex) Ovechkin became a free agent. That's the type of player he is."
-- Martin Brodeur on Ilya Kovalchuk

"You can look at Zach and it's kind of hard to say the kid doesn't have talent and the drive, but Ilya's got four or five inches on him and maybe 50 pounds on him," Brodeur said. "Definitely for his size and ability, he's a guy that we never really saw here in Jersey. We had some good players, but this guy is a top dog. Everybody wants him and you'll see when he becomes a free agent everybody will throw everything they can at him. It'll be like if (Alex) Ovechkin became a free agent. That's the type of player he is."

Speaking of Parise, well, you couldn't wipe the smile off of his face Friday morning. Arguably no other Devils' forward will benefit from Kovalchuk's presence as much as Parise, who was leading the team with 25 goals before Kovalchuk and his 31 arrived.

They're both left wings, so they will likely play on opposite lines, meaning opposing coaches will have to pick and choose who to worry about more. They'll both be on the power play, but now do you worry about Kovalchuk's lethal shot from the point or Parise's speed and handle down low?

"I think it's going to give room to Zach," Brodeur said. "Teams just cannot key on Zach all night long because Kovy is going to be there and vice versa. Especially with the way we were going offensively, we needed something to give us a spark and we did it in a big way."

To a man, the Devils were shocked that the trade actually went down. They had been hearing rumors, but never bought into them. Even coach Jacques Lemaire said he knew two days ago that Lamoriello was working on this deal, but he never figured it happen.

"I was driving home and it was in rush hour so I didn't want to have my phone out, but it just kept ringing," Parise told NHL.com. "There were like 15 calls and I'm like, 'What the heck is going here? Did I get traded?' Then I found out and I was shocked, very surprised. I had heard rumors, but the more trade deadlines you go through you learn not to read anything into the speculation so I didn't really think it was going to happen. It did and it's great."

Brodeur said he was laughing when he first saw the Devils linked to Kovalchuk.

"All my buddies were calling me and I was like, 'I don't think so,' " he said. "Usually when it's out there, we're not going to get him. I got calls from a lot of people just before it happened and I still didn't believe until I saw it on the ticker."

Dainius Zubrus may have been the first player to get the official word. He spoke directly to Kovalchuk around 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

"I know (Atlanta forward) Max Afinogenov well, so he calls me and says, 'Here, talk to your new teammate,' " Zubrus said. "He seemed like he was excited. He was asking a lot of questions and I told him he would really like it here and really like the guys in the room."

Zubrus, who is Lithuanian, is the only Devils' player who has actually played with Kovalchuk before. Parise and Brodeur have been in All-Star Games with him, but those don't count.

"I played with him once, in the World Cup in 2004, and he's a good guy and I'm sure he'll be good in the locker room," Zubrus said. "He's one of the top players in the league so we're excited to have him here."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com



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