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Steckel excited for Devils debut

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
David Steckel
With a new club, new teammates and linemates, David Steckel has had a lot to process in a short amount of time.

He was acquired Monday from Washington along with a second-round pick for Jason Arnott, and will make his Devils debut tonight versus Tampa Bay at the Rock.

“It’s the first trade in my career, so it’s pretty unique in that regard,” Steckel said following the morning skate. “Everything about it, it’s just been kind of a blur to be honest with you. Everything happened so fast. I was up here and kind of the solace is coming to the rink and being on the ice and I don’t have to worry about anything else. I’m sure it’ll settle down in the next couple of days, but for right now I just have to worry about one thing, and that’s the game tonight.”

For the second straight day, Steckel centered a line of David Clarkson and Vladimir Zharkov. He had one full practice on Tuesday to try and get a feel for the new trio.

“It was a fast pace and trying to break in new equipment,” he said. “Just trying to get used to it. I was pretty nervous out there, jittery, and I hadn’t skated in two days. [The Capitals] had a day off before, then I didn’t skate, I kind of tweaked my back so I came off the ice early from practice a couple of days ago in Washington. I’m sure the travel didn’t help, running around. Felt better today, and hopefully each day I’ll continue to feel better.”

Considering that this the first time he’s been traded, he expects to feel a little nervous tonight.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” he said. “First day of school. I’m not really nervous now, just hopefully I can live up to expectations more than anything. I’m sure once I get to the game tonight, there’ll be a little nerves creeping in.”

Steckel has six goals and six assists in 23 career games against the Lightning, the most against any team. But he laughed off a suggestion that he had to measure up to Arnott’s Washington debut. In his first game as a Capital, Arnott set up the tying goal in the final minute of regulation before Alex Ovechkin capped a 2-1 win over the Islanders in overtime.

“I’m not going to make any predictions,” Steckel said with a smile. “Hard work. We’ll bring that to the table first. That’s a good starting point.”

Jacques Lemaire cautioned against players trying to do too much in their first game with a new squad.

“He’s got to play within his game, what he’s good at, what he’s capable of doing, not trying all kinds of stuff to try and impress,” Lemaire said. “Stuff that he doesn’t usually do. He just has to play hard. He’ll be fine.”

Steckel plays a two-way game, but his greatest asset is his face-off proficiency.

“You need that on a team,” Lemaire said. “You look at it, and it starts with the power play, penalty kill. Your guys on the power play, especially with the new rule, you start in the offensive zone. So if your top centerman goes on and wins the draw, it’s a big plus.

“Same thing with the PK. Penalty kill, you get the guy that wins the draw, you send it down, you just start well. As we all know, there’s moments in the game that are crucial and you’re in your zone and you need a faceoff guy.”

Martin Brodeur will make his second straight start tonight. … Lemaire did not anticipate any changes to tonight's lineup. … Devils lost 2-1 at Tampa Bay on Feb. 25, and Lemaire said he'd like to see a better start: "I didn't like the start. What we do well now, is even [when] we don't start well, defensively we're fine. It's just adds a little more stress, but besides that, we're OK. We're in the zone and trying to get shots and goals, but we're defending well – better than we used to."
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