Patrik Elias will have to wait a little bit longer to play his first game of 2009-10.
Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire said Wednesday that the star forward would not be in the lineup to face the visiting Washington Capitals.
"It's only two practices he had," Lemaire said. "I think it'll be good he gets a couple more, then we'll see."
Elias practiced this week for the first time since undergoing September groin surgery and took part in Wednesday's morning skate.
"Pretty good today," Elias said. "You could see it was a little bit less challenging, but I needed a practice like that just to kind of fiddle with the puck a little bit and do different things. I stayed away a little bit from the stops and starts today, so that was good."
Each day of skating with the team has tested Elias in different ways. Monday's practice was a grueling skate and was followed by a lighter session on Tuesday, when he reported feeling some soreness. There was more of the same on Wednesday.
"Still sore; a little sore," he said. "Like I said, I felt a little bit tired and a little bit sore yesterday after practice. It was the same thing today. That's why I say practice was perfect for me today. I felt it at the beginning a litlte bit, but there were no violent moves out there. It was nice and easy; it was good, except the end. The laps, that gets tiring."
Regaining his timing and conditioning are all part of the process. Elias is the Devils' all-time leading scorer and will add an offensive boost to a New Jersey squad that was 8-4-0 entering Wednesday's contest.
"I think it's a combination of just different moves; new moves," he said. "I've had three surgeries. You can't really forget about it. It's in the process of healing. It's a combination of everything together with the hip. You do different things. You try to get the conditioning back, you skate laps. That's something new for the leg and for the body. You introduce stops and starts, that's something new. Then you practice with the guys, and that's something new. Battling with the guys, that's something new.
"So you just have to take it step by step to feel comfortable that you can go out there and not really go through a couple of shifts and get tired. You just have to take your time and go through it and take it step by step. I think we did a great job with that so far."
Elias said Wednesday's decision to keep him out of the lineup was made before the morning skate.
"I really didn't communicate with anybody whether I was playing or not until (Wednesday)," he said. "They asked how I felt, and I was being honest about it. I think it's the right approach. The guys are doing well, so there's really no reason to rush to hop in a game just for the sake of it. There's the issue with the surgery, and there's the issue of just getting confident with the puck and not getting killed."
He said he hopes to avoid the rude welcome that Toronto's Phil Kessel received Tuesday night against Tampa Bay. Kessel missed the first 12 games of the season after shoulder surgery, and was laid out in the first period of his first game back by Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund.
"He got caught with his head down," Elias said. "Obviously, that's going to happen, but you just have to be smart out there. You're not going to be 100 percent comfortable until you get in a game anyway, and a few games, obviously. If you have a doubt, that's never good."
He did not rule out playing in one of the Devils' weekend games. Jersey's Team hosts the Islanders Friday, and heads to Ottawa Saturday.
"Every day is different," he said. "I had a bad day; not feeling great (Tuesday). Today was OK because it wasn't as hard. We'll see how I feel tomorrow and after tomorrow's practice. Back-to-back games, I don't know, that would be tough probably. We'll see. We haven't made a plan, one way or the other. We just have to talk to everybody and make the right decision for everybody."
NJD NOTES Matt Halischuk has been recalled from Lowell (AHL), and will play tonight.
• With 38 shots in 12 games, Niclas Bergfors is second among rookies to Islanders' 2009 first-overall pick John Tavares. Lemaire said the coaching staff discusses getting pucks toward the net.
"I guess he's one of those who heard what we had to say and tries to do it," Lemaire said.