While Martin Brodeur
tries to set a new NHL record for wins Tuesday against Chicago, Patrik Elias
will take the ice needing one point to become the all-time leading scorer in Devils history.
With a goal and an assist in the Devils’ 3-1 win at Montreal, Elias notched career points 700 and 701 and tied John MacLean’s club record.
“It means that you’re doing something right and that you’ve been here long enough,” Elias said after Monday’s practice at AmeriHealth Pavlion. “It will be special, no question about it, but hopefully I have many more in front of me.”
Elias has already scored a bundle this season. He leads the Devils in assists (45), while ranking second in goals (28), points (73), and power-play tallies (11).
“Patrik has been one of our key guys,” Brodeur said. “He’s been a great leader for us. He’s been through a lot of things… but Patrik’s game always been at the top. He thrives on that; he’s a really proud guy.”
To take over the franchise points lead, a player needs two things: skill and longevity. Elias has had both, spending his entire 11-year career in New Jersey and holding, among other marks, the Devils’ single-season record for points (96).
“I never saw myself leaving,” said Elias, who was taken with the Devils’ second pick in 1994. “Two years ago it was a situation where I had different options, but for a couple reasons I stayed here. One of them was to have a chance to win. Since I’ve been here, I’ve never missed the playoffs and that means a lot. You have a chance to compete for a Stanley Cup and that’s what it’s all about.”
The list of players to have led their franchise in scoring includes current and future Hall-of-Famers such as Ron Francis (Hartford/Carolina), Gordie Howe (Detroit), Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton), Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh), Stan Mikita (Chicago), and Mike Modano (Minnesota/Dallas).
Entering Tuesday's game, the list also includes MacLean, who spent 14 seasons in the Garden State, collecting 347 goals and 354 assists.
Currently a Devils’ assistant coach, MacLean enjoyed one of the best careers in Devils history. He scored twice in the 1988 regular-season finale, including the overtime game-winner, to clinch New Jersey’s first-ever playoff berth, then went on to help the team to its first Stanley Cup championship in 1995.
The only Devil to register more than one season with 40-or-more goals, MacLean hit the mark in three straight campaigns from 1988-89 to 1990-91. Elias cracked 40 goals in 2000-01.
“Patty’s accomplishment is pretty phenomenal in itself,” Devils head coach Brent Sutter said. “Obviously it says something about the career that Johnny Mac had here, and I think that goes unnoticed a little bit too. Mac had a pretty outstanding career here with the Devils. For Patty to be where he is right now says something about the accomplishments Patty’s had to date. That’s pretty neat.”
Now Elias can’t wait to get to 702 and beyond.
“I’d like to do it next game,” Elias said. “The sooner the better.”