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Devils sign free agents Zubrus, Rachunek @NHLdotcom

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -The New Jersey Devils signed forward Dainius Zubrus on Tuesday, two days after losing star Scott Gomez in free agency to the New York Rangers.

Primarily a right wing, Zubrus played center with the Capitals last season. Splitting the season between Washington and Buffalo, he had a career-high 24 goals and 36 assists.

The 29-year-old from Lithuania has scored 138 goals in his 10-year career.

The Devils also announced the signing of unrestricted free agent defenseman Karel Rachunek. Rachunek spent last season with the New York Rangers, scoring six goals and adding 20 assists in 66 regular season games.

He played in Europe the previous two seasons and has prior NHL experience with the Ottawa Senators.

Zubrus sounded unconcerned about the perception that he was signed in part to replace Gomez, who centered the first line between Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta and was second on the team in scoring in 2005-06 with 84 points.

"We never really discussed what position and situations I'll be playing in," Zubrus said. "I don't think about whose shoes I have to fill. I am my own player, I know what I can do and how I play. I believe in this team and the success they've had. It's about playing in the system and having the discipline to do that."

The Devils still haven't hired a head coach, but Zubrus said that didn't affect his decision. General manager Lou Lamoriello took over behind the bench at the end of the regular season after firing Claude Julien, but has yet to hire a replacement.

"It was never going to be a decision based on who's coaching," Zubrus said. "They've always had good coaches in the past, and I've never really had a problem with any coaches. I worry about the game, they worry about coaching. I like to keep it that way."

Zubrus was the 15th overall pick by Philadelphia in the 1996 NHL entry draft.

He was sent to Montreal in 1999 as part of a deal for Mark Recchi, then was dealt to Washington during the 2000-01 season. His best season with the Capitals was in 2005-06 when he had 23 goals and 34 assists in 71 games.

Buffalo acquired Zubrus at the trade deadline last season and he had four goals and four assists in 19 regular season games, plus eight assists in 15 playoff games.

Zubrus sat out the Sabres' season-ending playoff loss to Ottawa with a knee injury, but said Tuesday he is healthy and looking forward to playing in New Jersey.

"The decision was a hockey decision," he said. "The tradition, the winning they've had in the past here, that was my biggest attraction. I want to win and that's why I wanted to come here."

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