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Elias out three to six weeks

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Elias missed just five games last season.
They have yet to play their first exhibition game and already the Devils are dealing with injury.

With Jersey's Team set to open its preseason schedule at home Wednesday against the Rangers, Devils' President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello announced Wednesday morning that Patrik Elias has undergone a procedure to break up scar tissue in his groin.

Elias, the all-time leading scorer in franchise history, is expected to miss three to six weeks, making it unlikely that he'll be ready for the regular-season opener against Philadelphia on Oct. 3.

The Devils consulted the same doctor that performed Elias' groin surgery four years ago, Philadelphia sports hernia specialist Dr. William Meyers.

"At the consultation of our doctors and Dr. Meyers, what he did was he decided to look and see what was going on there after doing an MRI," Lamoriello said. "He had a lot of scar tissue that had been built up in that area. He simply broke up the scar tissue. Everything went extremely well; what we're using as a time frame is anywhere from three to six weeks. That is, when I say six weeks, I mean fully ready to play, depending on where his conditioning is – that's why we go three to six. The doctor felt we could be fairly agressive right away because it was, simplistically, scar tissue."

Elias' teammates heard the news for the first time Wednesday morning.

"It's a big hole to fill obviously," said Brian Rolston. "Patrik's a great hockey player and a huge part of this team. Having said that, I think we have a lot of veteran hockey players in here; we have a good group, a tremendous group. I expect us to be able to fill the gap until he gets back. I truly believe we will."

The Devils overcame a long list of injuries last season to capture their eighth Atlantic Division title. Rolston was among them, missing 18 games because of an ankle injury. Martin Brodeur was sidelined for 50 games after left elbow surgery, and a broken hand cost Andy Greene 18 games.

"Our team last year was probably the deepest in the National Hockey League, as far as I was concerned," Rolston said. "This year's no different. Obviously we have Shanny (Brendan Shanahan) starting the season this year, too. We just have a deep hockey team here with a lot of experience. That's a nice problem to have."

Elias recorded 31 goals and 47 assists last season, reaching the 30-goal mark for the fourth time in his career. He recorded his 702nd career point on March 17 to surpass John MacLean atop the Devils' scoring list.

"He's great for us," Zach Parise said. "He's really good on the power play on the half-wall, and quarterbacking the power play. He plays in all situations, he's a big part of the team."

Though replacing Elias will be difficult, Parise said the setback opens up opportunities for other players.

"It seems here we're used to dealing with guys and injuries, so we're going to have to make adjustments," he said. "But that's the way it is."

Head coach Jacques Lemaire said he now needs to look for another center. Coping without a top forward is nothing new for Lemaire, who coached the often-injured Marian Gaborik in Minnesota.

"He's an important player for this organization," Lemaire said of Elias. "I'm getting used to this, missing the top player."

The coach echoed Parise's comment about a new opportunity.

"What's good is that someone else in the organization will have the chance to play," Lemaire said. "That's the only thing that is good, that is positive."

Lemaire will use exhibition games to determine whether a replacement for Elias will come from within the organization or via trade with another club.

"We'll see after the exhibition games what the kids can do," he said. "Again, we'll talk after."

Patrice Cormier, 19, is certainly on the short list of prospects that have stood out to Lemaire thus far. He will center a line with Vladimir Zharkov and David Clarkson in the exhibition opener versus the Rangers. Another standout is 18-year-old Swedish defenseman Alexander Urbom, who was paired with Mike Mottau in Wednesday's morning skate. 

"You look at the kids that are playing tonight, they're kids that we felt played good at the camp," Lemaire said. "They deserve to play in games to see what they can do with the competition. It's great at the start because the kids have a chance to play, a chance to show what they can do, and then you'll realize that some guys are a year away, two years away – that's how it goes."

Cormier was the Devils' third choice, 54th overall, in 2008, while Urbom was taken third, 73rd overall, at this year's draft.

"Just to get a chance to play in an exhibition game against an NHL team, it's huge," Lemaire said. "It means the kid has great talent and, to me, that the kids will play shortly."

Yann Danis still hadn't received his new Devils mask by the time he took the ice for morning skate, but said he expected to have it in time for Wednesday's game. He has used his old Islanders mask throughout camp so far.

Morning skate
11:07 a.m. – Martin Brodeur; defensemen Jay Leach, Paul Martin and Colin White; and forwards Jamie Langenbrunner, Jay Pandolfo and Andrew Peters are among the veterans skating with the rookies this morning at AmeriHealth Pavilion.

10:24 a.m. – Devils' GM Lou Lamoriello just announced that Patrik Elias has undergone a procedure to break up scar tissue in his groin and is expected to miss three to six weeks. He's likely to miss the regular-season opener on Oct. 3 vs. Philadelphia.

10:06 a.m. – Morning lines continued: Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Brendan Shanahan…Vlad Zharkov-Patrice Cormier-David Clarkson…on defense, Bryce Salvador-Cory Murphy…Mark Fraser-Johnny Oduya…Alexander Urbom-Mike Mottau.

10:01 a.m. – Yann Danis still waiting on a new mask? Still has his Isles mask this morning. Jeff Frazee is the other goaltender.

9:57 a.m. – Taking a look at this morning's lines: Brian Rolston-Dainius Zubrus-Niclas Bergfors…Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond-Rod Pelley-Ilkka Pikkarainen…

9:56 a.m. – Players on the ice for today's morning skate. The Devils open the preseason tonight at home against the New York Rangers. Gametime is 7 p.m.
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