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Elias eyes next milestone as Devils head west

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Patrik Elias acknowledges Devils fans after getting his 600th assist and 1,000th point on Jan. 6.
Now that he’s collected his 600th assist and 1,000th point and has been named the Devils’ representative at the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend, Patrik Elias remains on the verge of another achievement.

With the Devils headed out on a three-game California trip that opens Wednesday in Los Angeles, Elias is one goal away from becoming the 91st player in NHL history to reach 400.

Elias, who has five points (2g-3a) in his last four contests, has gone just two games without a goal. But that next one can’t come soon enough.

"It would be great, no question about it,” Elias said after Tuesday’s practice. "Hopefully I can do that, obviously. I’m getting too many texts lately, you know, ‘Let’s get it over with.' Hopefully they’re right and hopefully that will contribute to a win."

Tuesday's skate closed out a rare three full days of practice.

"Good pace out there. Good battle level,” Elias said. "We did a lot of drills to get some extra skating done. Obviously, we haven’t had that break throughout the first half of the season, so it’s kind of nice to do that and for the coaches to go over some of the things that they want to implement again. It was good and now it’s up to us, obviously, to bring that intensity into the game."

Cory Schneider starts Wednesday's game in L.A. The Devils visit Anaheim on Friday and end the trip in San Jose on Monday.

"We’re going to play some good teams,” Devils’ leading goal scorer Mike Cammalleri said. "It’s a challenge for us. I think I’d just like to see our game come together even more and get a little more comfortable in how we’re playing."

Elias believes the club has improved certain areas and hopes to see the progress continue.

"Just to play solid defensively and play well without the puck, positioning-wise,” he said. "I think we’ve been playing better with the puck and hopefully we can so some damage there."

Jaromir Jagr and Tuomo Ruutu, who have been sick this week, have not practiced and did not travel, though they could join the team in California.

"We hope so, but I really don’t know at this point,” Devils’ President/General Manager Lou Lamoriello said.

Eric Gelinas has been practicing as he recovers from the effects of the flu.

"He’s still not a hundred percent,” Lamoriello said. "I think he feels he is, but he missed a lot. He’s got to get his weight back. In my opinion, he won’t play [Wednesday] night, but we’ll see once the trip goes."

The absences of more regulars stand to make a tough trip even more of a challenge. By now, though, the Devils are accustomed to playing shorthanded.

"We’ve been having guys in and out of the lineup for quite a bit for different reasons: injuries, mumps, now it’s the flu going around,” Elias said. "It really doesn’t matter who is out and who is in, we just kind of go through it.

"I think that all of us know how to approach it. Different guys will get different time on the ice now. For us that are playing, we’ve just gotta keep doing the same thing that we've been doing lately. Some guys will get more ice time, so they’ve just got to step it up."

Said Cammalleri: "We’d like to have our full lineup, but we feel everyone here is capable of doing the job. We’ll get it done."

• The Devils assigned defenseman Seth Helgeson to Albany and recalled forward Joe Whitney.

Whitney, 26, made his NHL season debut on Dec. 29 and notched his first NHL goal in the next game, his third in the NHL, at Detroit on Dec. 31.

Albany’s leading scorer, Whitney has six points in five AHL games since being reassigned to the A-Devils, including a three-point (1g-2a) effort in his first game back at Bridgeport on Jan. 3.

"When he came up, he was impressive for the two games he played,” Lamoriello said. "He had another good night the other night. He deserves to be here, I guess that’s the best way to put it."

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