NEWARK, N.J. -- Patrik Elias
, the New Jersey Devils
' all-time leading point producer, will make his anticipated return to the ice Friday when the Devils host the New York Islanders
at Prudential Center.
His return couldn't come at a better time. With checking-line forwards Jay Pandolfo
(dislocated shoulder) and Rob Niedermayer
(upper body) on the shelf, Devils coach Jacques Lemaire
needs all the healthy offensive bodies he can get.
"If Niedermayer would be in, then Patrik would have played on the left side, but right now he's got no choice but to go at center," Lemaire told the media following his team's morning skate Friday in preparation for their game with the Islanders.
"He hasn't played the whole year and didn't have a lot of practices but he looks in good shape -- not playing shape -- but he didn't gain any weight," Lemaire said. "To me, it won't take long … maybe his passes won't be as crisp and accurate, but I think he'll be effective. Niedermayer was a big part of this team and Patrik will help to sustain what we were doing."
Lemaire expects Elias, who began skating with the team this week, to play 17-19 minutes, including some time on the power play.
Elias, who is coming off multiple surgeries this offseason (one on his hip, two on his groin), declared himself ready to go following the brisk practice. He appeared to be pain-free on the ice during the session and is anticipating the excitement of returning to game situations.
"I felt OK this morning; it was a little bit rough after yesterday's practice but manageable," Elias said. "But our plan going forward this week was the right way, so hopefully I'll feel good right after the game."
Elias said he and the coaching staff discussed playing Friday against the Isles following Thursday's practice.
"We decided (Thursday) that we'd see how I felt this morning and we determined it right before the morning skate (that I'd play) Friday," Elias said.
"I'm not overly excited but it'll come as the game arrives," he added. "It's not the first time I'm coming back after injury. Although missing five months and not playing any games I'll be nervous, I just have to make sure I calm myself down and play a smart hockey game tonight."
Perhaps it's simply a coincidence that Elias, who has 295 goals and 706 points in 822 games, will open his season against the team against which he has had the most success in his career. Elias has personal highs of 26 goals and 64 points in 61 games against the Islanders.
"Every time you step into games, you have to get used to it again -- it's different with the atmosphere and everything," he said. "It's all part of the game. We'll see what happens."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com