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White tops Red in first rookie scrimmage

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond had a goal in Friday's Red-White rookie scrimmage.

The second day of training camp for Devils rookies featured the camp's first scrimmage on Friday. Nathan Perkovich broke a 2-2 tie 2:46 into the third period to hand the White team a 5-2 victory over Red.

Alexander Vasyunov (2nd choice, 58th overall in 2006), Stephen Gionta, and Kevin Cormier also scored for White. Olivier Magnan-Grenier (6/148, 2006) added an empty-netter with 39.9 seconds left.

Nick Palmieri (2/79, 2007) and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (4/216, 2004) were the goal scorers for Red. Vasyunov and Palmieri traded tallies in the first, and Gionta and Letourneau-Leblond did the same in the second.

Perkovich shown here at July's rookie camp.
Jeff Frazee (2/38, 2005) and Dave Caruso split the goaltending duties for Red, while Gerald Coleman and Mike McKenna shared the workload for White.

Perkovich's go-ahead tally came on a shot from the slot that beat Caruso off the left post.

"I just hopped on the ice and the puck was just laying there right in the slot," Perkovich said. "You get in the slot, it’s a good opportunity to shoot. I just wound up, put my head down and it went in. You just shoot as hard as you can.”

Perkovich, New Jersey’s sixth choice, 250th overall, in 2004, completed his third season at Lake Superior (CCHA) in 2008-09, posting 12 goals and 12 assists in 35 games. He made his pro debut with Trenton last season, scoring a goal and three assists in six playoff games with the Devils’ ECHL affiliate.

The Canton, Mich., native turns 24 on Oct. 15, and was pleased to have made an early impact at camp.

“It always feels good to play well and score a goal to get your confidence up,” he said. “It lets you relax and play your game.”

Rod Pelley centered a line with Niclas Bergfors (1/23, 2005) on the right wing and Adam Henrique (4/82, 2008) on the left. Pelley took a puck in the face when a Bergfors centering feed was tipped into the air by a defender in the slot. He immediately went to the bench, but reported no problems afterward.

“I’m lucky I have chubby cheeks,” Pelley said. “It caught me flat in the cheek.”

He could be seen spitting something out onto the ice as he skated off for the line change. Fortunately, no dental work was required.

“No teeth,” he said. “The molars are strong. It went on its edge and it just went flat. If I was down a little bit lower it could’ve caught me in the eye and might’ve been a worse situation.”

Pelley and Bergfors skated together on a line at Lowell (AHL) last season and are vying for NHL spots this fall.

"He’s very skilled with the puck," Pelley said of Bergfors. "Sometimes I catch myself watching him a little bit. I just have to find the open ice and let him know I’m there. Sometimes he gets that puck and he doesn’t want to let go of it. You have to communicate well; he’s a good player."

Both enjoyed solid AHL campaigns in 2008-09. Pelley notched 15 goals and 23 assists for an AHL career-high 38 points in 75 games. Bergfors set career highs across the board with 22 goals and 29 assists for 51 points.

Even a little familiarity with linemates can be an advantage when trying to make a good impression on coaches and scouts.

"Bergy’s pretty quiet, and I know that," Pelley said. "I kind of just read off him. He’s pretty intelligent so he reads the play pretty well. He’s a crafty hockey player. I usually just head to the net because that’s where he’s going to want to put it."

Pelley offered his assessment of a scrimmage that occasionally turned chippy: Letourneau-Leblond exchanged heated words with Patrick Davis (4/99, 2005). Ashton Bernard (6/174, 2009) appeared to challenge Mark Fraser (3/84, 2005), then Kevin Cormier.

“The effort was there I think; the energy," Pelley said. "It was scrambly hockey with maybe a little bit of excitement on both sides. I think as camp continues, everyone will kind of settle down and it’ll be more positional with better passes – that type of thing. It’s the first day of scrimmage – the first day of hitting – so guys are going to be excited. It’ll get better from here."

Gionta gave White a 2-1 lead off a goalmouth scramble 6:36 into the second period. On the play, Myles Stoesz fell onto Frazee's outstretched left leg, prompting a reaction from the netminder, who shoved Stoesz away from the crease after the puck crossed the line.

"It was a rebound and I couldn't find it in my feet," Frazee said. "I don't know how he ended up on top of me. I was kind of frustrated by the fact that he fell on me and I couldn't really do anything about it. I couldn't get up and kick the puck away from the net."

Frazee sensed that tensions were running high on Friday.

"It felt very hostile and uncomfortable," he said. "I think everyone wants to compete for a job, and some guys may be taking advantage of the fact that they've asked us not to fight."

Pelley wasn't surprised to see some intensity this early in camp. Veterans report Saturday morning for physicals before hitting the ice on Sunday.

"You look around and you know there’s some toughness out there," Pelley said. "Guys have been training all summer to come to camp and be ready to play their role and do what it takes to make the team. Everyone that’s anxious out there showed good discipline in not dropping the gloves and saving it for a chance in an exhibition game. Even though everyone’s fighting for spots, if you can hold off on fighting a teammate and save it for exhibition games, all the power to you."

Henrique, normally a center, had left wing duties on Friday.

"I haven't played there in a little while, but once I got out there on the first couple of shifts I felt fine," he said.

Henrique said he last played the left side sometime around the middle of last season with Windsor (OHL). He went on to win the 2009 Memorial Cup with fellow Devils prospect, defenseman Harry Young (8/202, 2008).

He wasn't sure if it was a numbers game or whether the Devils' staff wanted to see him on the left side, but Henrique is ready for any assignment that comes his way.

"Wherever they want me to play, I'll play," he said. "If they want me to play defense, I'll play there. I felt pretty good out there today, I didn't feel too out of place."

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