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Devils winning despite quiet playoffs from Elias

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Devils winning despite quiet playoffs from Elias
The veteran center only has five points in 14 postseason games, but according to coach Pete DeBoer has contributed to New Jersey's run to the Eastern Conference Finals in other ways.

NEWARK, N.J. -- One might consider the odds of the New Jersey Devils winning a fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history rather slim without some offensive contribution from veteran forward Patrik Elias.

Still, the fact the Devils have performed so well in these playoffs, working as a five-man unit on the ice, has probably masked the fact Elias is struggling to get untracked offensively.

When asked if the opposition was doing anything differently against him, Elias responded, "No."

When asked if he was frustrated in any way or if it was something he just needed to battle through, he responded, "No and yes."

Fact is, the Devils all-time playoff leader in goals, assists and points has produced just one goal in his last 11 games -- a one goal, two-point effort against the Philadelphia Flyers in a 4-3 overtime win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. It's amazing to think how much stronger the Devils would be if Elias rediscovers that offensive groove.

Patrik Elias
Patrik Elias
Center - NJD
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 5
SOG: 40 | +/-: -2
"Patrik plays a good two-way game and he's a solid, reliable player," Devils captain Zach Parise told NHL.com. "He can be streaky at times, so it's just a matter of time and everything will come together.

"It's funny, you win together and once you lose, everyone starts pointing fingers. I think it's unfair, but he's played fine. He plays a lot and in every situation."

Devils coach Pete DeBoer was asked if he has been pleased with the play of Elias despite his offensive slump.

"I'm very satisfied," DeBoer said. "Patrik isn't a guy we measure on his numbers. His numbers are always good. He does so many other things for us on the ice, in all three zones, and in the dressing room. If you're inferring his playoff numbers aren't where they should be, I don't even look at that. He has an impact on our games on a nightly basis in so many different areas that that's the last stat I look at."

The three-time NHL All-Star was a lynchpin in the team's 2000 and 2003 championship runs, as well as their march to the Stanley Cup Final in 2001.

He had seven goals and 20 points in 23 games during the 2000 run, followed by nine goals and 23 points in 25 games in 2001 as the Devils saw their bid to repeat as champs foiled in seven games by Colorado. Elias added five goals and 13 points in 24 postseason matches in 2003.

This postseason, the 36-year-old center is currently ninth on the team with five points, including three goals. He's won just 40.6 percent of his faceoffs, and has the second-worst plus-minus rating (minus-2) on the team behind Ilya Kovalchuk (minus-4) while averaging 18:22 of ice time.

"I don't even look at it like he's in a slump," Devils forward David Clarkson told NHL.com. "I know the media and some people look at those things, but in this locker room, we're all just worried about what's ahead and that's winning. Who knows what'll happen the next game? I couldn't even tell you how many points anyone has; we're winning and that's all that matters. You see guys like [Stephen] Gionta, [Ryan] Carter and others chipping in every night … it's been great."

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Elias led the Devils and ranked seventh in the NHL with 52 assists during the regular season -- his highest total since the 2000-01 campaign (56 assists). He ranked second on the team and 10th in the League with 78 points and was fourth on the Devils with 26 goals.

A majority of that success came while working the middle between Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus. That line remained intact during the team's seven-game series triumph against the Florida Panthers when Elias generated two goals. It was broken up in the next series against the Flyers when he skated between Zach Parise and David Clarkson.

"The thing is, in the playoffs, there's less space down low, so maybe that kind of goes into it," Zubrus said. "We have to get the pucks to the defense, and they move it around, and we battle in front."

DeBoer had Elias back with Sykora and Zubrus for Game 2 against the New York Rangers on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden -- a 3-2 victory. Despite earning a playoff-low 14:54 of ice time, he generated a game-high four shots.

"Patrik gets opportunities and is sort of quarterback on the power play … he still makes good plays," Zubrus said. "Honestly, I don't even notice, production wise, that he isn't the same as he was during the regular season. We're more of a four-line team now than we ever were during the season, so we're rolling and getting wins and it doesn't matter."

Elias said DeBoer deserves a lot of credit for the team's postseason success.

"I think [DeBoer] has done a great job," Elias said. "Not just in the playoffs, but in the regular season. Not just the style of hockey, but the communication with the players and keeping the attitude on the right track. He keeps it loose at the right time. I think any one of the guys will tell you … we respect him and we're having fun playing for him and that's what it's all about."

Elias actually compared this year's team chemistry with the 2000 team.

"Back in 2000 we had a great group of guys, and they loved playing for each other and with each other," he said. "When things got harder, Larry [Robinson] was a great communicator with the guys. Sometimes, things might get tiring mentally in the playoffs. But that's not a case here. We're in the middle of May and we still love being here, so that's a good thing."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

Quote of the Day

When I first became captain here, Monsieur Beliveau came to me and said, 'You're going to be fine. You don't have to change, you got selected because of who you are.'

— Saku Koivu on Thursday, recalling what he was told by the late Jean Beliveau when he was named Canadiens captain in 1999
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