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Patrik Elias 'not there yet'

Free agent forward taking 'month-by-month approach' in recovery from knee surgery

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Though veteran forward Patrik Elias feels a lot better today than he did prior to having right knee surgery on May 11, he said the odds of him returning to the New Jersey Devils are probably 50/50.

Elias, 40, who became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, has been skating on his own, and at times with teammates, in an attempt to strengthen the knee since returning to New Jersey from the Czech Republic in September.

However, Elias told NHL.com he is not ready to begin practicing with the Devils.

"I'm not there yet," Elias said. "I don't know how much longer it will be, whether it's a week or a month, I don't know.

"I know what my game is and obviously you have to adjust because the age eventually catches up with you, and you are put in a different situation and at times a different role as a player. You either adjust or you don't. If you don't, your career is shortened. I understand that side of the game and I would be OK with it."

Video: TOR@NJD: Elias nets Devils' last goal of the season

The Devils have continued to monitor Elias' progress and general manager Ray Shero said there is no timetable to when a decision needs to be made. Elias and Shero converse on a weekly basis regarding his progress, and Elias still has a locker stall, attends team meetings, receives treatment and remains a part of the organization even though he is not under contract.

"Last year was hard for me," Elias said. "Not so much because I was hurting or couldn't play to my potential or play that many games, it was more not being able to play with the group of guys we had, play for the coaching staff we had. I know I would have really enjoyed that because this is the type of hockey that suits me.

"Obviously, I wish I was 20 years younger but that's not happening, so we adjust and deal with the situation the best way we can. Those are all the next steps and I'm taking a month-by-month approach."

Elias has played 18 full NHL seasons, all with New Jersey. He was limited to 16 games last season, when had two goals and eight points. He played the final three games of the regular season.

What does Elias need to have happen in order to begin practicing with the Devils in earnest?

"It's steps you have to take on the ice and practicing by yourself but even before [training camp] started, I skated with the guys and was doing things on my own," Elias said. "The tempo I skate at is not even close to the way the guys practice or play games. I try and simulate some of the stuff. I take it one week at a time, do conditioning stuff, lapping, implement stopping and starting. You kind of do that and if you're OK, then eventually you say you wouldn't mind maybe jumping in and seeing how a real practice feels.

"That's when I might say, 'Holy cow, these guys are way too good.' So the decision might be easier."

Video: NJD@MTL: Elias redirects Larsson?s shot past Condon

Elias was selected by the Devils in the second round (No. 51) of the 1994 NHL Draft. He's New Jersey's all-time leader in goals (408), assists (617) and points (1,025), and is the only player to score at least 1,000 points with the Devils. He said that if he was to play one more season, the most important thing is knowing he'd be part of the team.

"It's a matter of being here, because that's the biggest thing you miss as a player," Elias said. "I miss that team camaraderie; hanging out in those good and bad times after a game, the emotions. It doesn't matter what the role is.

"Obviously you need certain types of players for certain roles and I don't know if I'd be playing seven or eight minutes a game, but I'm not really concerned with that."

Devils coach John Hynes has been encouraged by Elias' offseason regimen.

"He's such a true professional that he's in great shape," Hynes said. "He looks good and we want to do what's right with him. He's in the process of seeing if this can work and once we get to that point there will be a determination, along with Patrik, me and [Shero], on whether this will be the best thing for him and us."

Elias knows his age might limit what he can do regarding the pace and speed of the game today, but he isn't conceding anything yet.

"Luckily, I've always been a pretty good skater, but if you have limitations because of injuries you have to be honest with yourself," he said. "Yes, the experience (I possess) might be there but you got to understand it might not happen anymore. I think I've kept myself in shape and worked hard. The season will start soon. The coaching staff and [Shero] will communicate with me and if I'm … who knows what will happen. I still enjoy this so we'll see where we're at then."

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