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NJD Notebook: Holik mixes it up

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Holik tried a composite in Monday's practice, but won't be sticking with it. – The Devils were back on the ice Monday morning, and Bobby Holik decided to mix things up a bit.

Holik has used wooden sticks for most of his NHL career, but borrowed one of David Clarkson’s one-piece composites about midway through practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion.

“I don’t think he was too big a fan of it,” Clarkson said. “He came by me and said they were brutal.”

Holik, now in his 18th NHL season, has long preferred traditional stick models to the more high-tech varieties that are engineered to help add velocity to players’ shots.

“You look at practice, everybody’s got a bomb, a big shot, because it’s a little bit easier with (composite),” Holik said. “Same thing in baseball. Instead of playing good ball, everybody goes for the home run. You sacrifice other parts of the game.”

Picking up a composite didn’t hurt Holik’s nose for the net. He used it to bury a Brian Gionta rebound past Martin Brodeur.

“I could score with a broom a lot of times, too,” Holik said. “I’ve got his number.”

Clarkson said he used a wooden stick for part of his first season at Kitchener (OHL), then made the switch to composite halfway through the year. Once he made it to the NHL, he found the crisper passes tough to control with composites and debated going to a wooden blade.

“It’s a give and take,” Clarkson said. “If you use a wooden blade, there’s going to be things you don’t like. With a one-piece there’s going to be things you love or don’t love. You just have to find a happy medium where it’s, ‘OK this isn’t good for this, but I can shoot a cannon with it.’ Guys like the way they shoot with the one-piece.”

Clarkson noted that some NHL point men can still light up the speed gun using wooden sticks. Adrian Aucoin, whose Calgary Flames visit Prudential Center on Tuesday, is one of them. But Holik, the only Devil still using wooden sticks, hasn’t missed a beat with his low-tech twigs.

“I think it says something about the wood stick because guys are still letting the puck rip with it. Bobby’s got a cannon when he shoots,” Clarkson said. “He’ll let you know that.”

• An injured Calgary Flames squad has turned to some young call-ups during its season-high, seven-game road trip. That means Brett Sutter, son of Calgary general manager Darryl and nephew of Devils’ head coach Brent, could see action in Tuesday’s matchup.

Brett, 21, played in Calgary's 5-2 loss at Atlanta on Sunday and looks forward to possibly facing family.

“It’s always fun, a little friendly rivalry,” Brett Sutter said Monday after Flames practice. “I'm looking forward to it. Honestly, I haven’t played many games so it’s always exciting no matter what the situation is. Having had him as a coach in juniors, it’ll be that much more exciting for me."

Brent Sutter traded for Brett when he was 18, and coached him for two seasons at Red Deer (WHL).

“He’s a hard-working kid in the class of a grinder-type player with some skill,” Brent Sutter said. “He’s a competitor, he competes hard and plays hard. His hockey sense is pretty good.”

Selected with Calgary’s sixth pick, 179th overall, in the 2005 Entry Draft, Brett tries to keep his game simple and consistent, using what he learned from his uncle and former coach. 

“He preaches a lot of hard work and discipline," said Brett, who has three appearances this season. "I learned a lot from him in those two years, and I’m sure he preaches the same kind of thing now (in New Jersey).”

Brett would be the second Sutter the Devils have faced this season. Brent’s son, Brandon, was chosen 11th overall by Carolina in 2007 and nearly scored against New Jersey in their meeting on Jan. 6. Brett believes that both he and his cousin bring a competitive edge to the rink.

“Brandon’s going to be a great player. He can skate, he can score, he’s going to be a two-way player," Brett said. "We’re a little different; he’s probably got a little more of an offensive upside than I do, but we both like to muck it up and play gritty so you can definitely compare us that way.”

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