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Brodeur: Devils let Parise 'walk to free agency'

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur isn't sure what type of reception former teammate Zach Parise will receive when the Minnesota Wild play Thursday at Prudential Center.

He acknowledged that while the decision by the former Devils captain to sign a lucrative offer with the Wild in the summer of 2012 strictly was business, it also affected the Devils "in a big way."

"Hockey players have different views than the fans, but that's expected," Brodeur said. "The fans for sure are not pleased with his decision to leave us, especially being the captain. The only drawback being he went back home to Minnesota. Some fans are sensitive to that and they'll understand.

"But it affected our organization in a big way … losing him. That's what the fans care about. Us, we know it's part of the business. We had plenty of chances, two years, to talk to him to try and figure something out. We waited and waited and it was too late."

Parise signed a 13-year contract with the Wild on July 4, 2012 after spending seven seasons with the Devils. He was their captain in 2011-12 when the team reached the Stanley Cup Final but lost a six-game series to the Los Angeles Kings.

"He was one of the fan favorites, no doubt about that," Brodeur said. "The girls were pretty excited to see him play out there, he looks so young. It's kind of a tough one. He's done a lot for this organization. He grew on this organization and captained a team that went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Not many captains in the League that can say they did that. Even though he didn't win, he led us there and that's pretty impressive."

Brodeur was asked if he was disappointed that the organization was unable to re-sign Parise. He used Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, as an example. Stamkos was a restricted free agent when the Lightning signed him to a five-year, $37.5 million contract July 19, 2011, two months after helping the team make a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Final.

"When you have an athlete that is going to be a game-breaker and one of the top players and the rules are free agency comes a lot younger than it used to, you have to make commitments," Brodeur said. "You look around the League and you see guys like Stamkos, they don't wait. They get it done and we let [Parise] walk to free agency. He was our property for a long time and we lost him."

Parise didn't feel that was the case when told of Brodeur's comment.

"That's too hard to say," Parise said. "I know Lou [Lamoriello, Devils general manager] has his policy and ways of doing things. It's not as though Lou waited until June 29 or June 30 to pick up the phone. We had talked a long time before that and we had talked over the summer before that. I think it's unfair to say Lou waited until the last minute because that wasn't the case."

Brodeur said he had several conversations with Parise during the free-agency period and got the impression the Minneapolis native was torn over the decision.

"I think he really was debating between going to Minnesota or staying with us," Brodeur said. "I talked to him a lot that day about that and he was torn about making that decision, but a lot of people have an influence on players, like agents and families. Again, if he went anywhere else it probably would have been a lot more heartbroken for the fans than going to Minnesota, that's for sure."

Cory Schneider, expected to start in goal for the Devils on Thursday, will look to earn his first victory in four games.

Schneider's first start in three games comes at a crucial point in the season for the Devils, who trail the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by five points with 13 regular-season games remaining. The team also is looking to rebound from a 4-2 home loss against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

"We're in a playoff mentality now where we can't think of winning 10 or 11 out of 13," Schneider said. "We've got to think about winning the next game and it starts [against Minnesota]. They've been a very good team all year. I think we need to match their intensity and just raise the effort level a little bit."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer likely will have Jacob Josefson back in the lineup for his second game in the past seven. Josefson was centering Ryane Clowe and Dainius Zubrus at practice Thursday. Additionally, Adam Henrique might move to left wing with center Patrik Elias and Michael Ryder. There's also a chance defenseman Anton Volchenkov, who was skating with captain Bryce Salvador, will return to the lineup in place of Eric Gelinas.

Here is the Devils' projected lineup:

Tuomo Ruutu - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Michael Ryder

Ryane Clowe - Jacob Josefson - Dainius Zubrus

Tim Sestito - Stephen Gionta - Damien Brunner

Mark Fayne - Andy Greene

Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov

Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky

Cory Schneider

Martin Brodeur

Scratched: Peter Harrold, Steve Bernier, Eric Gelinas

Injured: Ryan Carter (upper body)

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