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New Devils captain Langenbrunner gets vote of confidence from Stevens @NHLdotcom

Jamie Langenbrunner got a 'C' on his sweater and a giant seal of approval with it.

Last week, the New Jersey Devils forward skated onto the ice for warmups wearing the letter that hadn't been assigned all season by new coach Brent Sutter.

The move was made two nights before the Devils honored Scott Stevens, the greatest captain in team history and a recent inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Stevens captained the Devils to their three Stanley Cup titles during his reign from the 1992-93 season until 2004 when concussions ended his career.

One of those championships was won with Langenbrunner, who came to New Jersey from Dallas in March 2002.

"It's great. He was my choice from the start," Stevens said of the decision to make Langenbrunner the eighth captain in Devils history. "I'm a firm believer that you lead by example. Jamie is one of those special guys that brings it every night, in games and at practice.

"He brings a positive feeling over the team. He plays with confidence and passion and works very hard. It's hard not to follow a guy like that."

New Jersey rallied from an early 3-0 deficit in Langenbrunner's first game as captain and stretched its winning streak to eight last Wednesday. Then the Devils beat the Capitals on Friday, after Stevens was feted, giving them their third-longest run in team history and a sweep of the five-game homestand.

A pretty good start for Langenbrunner, who had a chance to catch up with Stevens and talk shop. Stevens let his former teammate know that he endorsed the move to make him captain.

"I talked to him after the game and he told me that. It was great," the 32-year-old winger said. "Obviously, I looked up to Scotty. ... I consider him one of the best leaders I ever played with. To have him say that, it feels good.

"I told him to keep his phone on. I might need him from time to time."


LOST PADDING: Maybe Roberto Luongo spoke too soon.

Last week, the Vancouver Canucks' No. 1 goalie was asked about the possibility that goalie equipment would be reduced again as a way to increase scoring - just as it was following the NHL lockout.

Luongo didn't seem too worried about the idea as long as safety wasn't compromised. He made his remarks a few days after he was hit in the ribs in a loss to the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 2.

"I'm comfortable with the pads," Luongo said. "The one area that concerns me a little bit is they're talking about the gloves. I've never had bruises on my hands like this in the past. I'm a little afraid to think of what it would be if they would go smaller in that.

"I don't think pads is an area that we want to touch. It's pretty small as it is. With the knee guards and stuff, it's already spilling out a little bit on the sides there."

He got back in the nets three nights after the shot to his ribs and beat Chicago, then played again last Saturday - stopping Sidney Crosby on an overtime penalty shot but losing in a shootout to Pittsburgh. Luongo took the warmup on Monday before the Canucks played Los Angeles, but felt too much pain in his ribs and sat out.

Now he's probably wishing he had more on-ice protection.

"I'm not sure what exactly, which part of the equipment they want to reduce," Luongo said. "As long as it's nothing that jeopardizes the safety of the goaltender, those are things we can look at.

"I've said it a hundred times before. If you want to increase scoring, just open up the game more and there will be more scoring chances and there will be more goals. That's how you increase scoring."


RUGGED RICK: Rick DiPietro dropped the gloves with fellow goalie Al Montoya in the preseason and punched Sean Avery in the crease in the regular season.

After letting his fists fly toward big Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski, it might be time for the New York Islanders to reel in the man who is under contract for the next 13 years.

"We are definitely going to talk to him," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "We can't afford to miss Ricky too much."In the closing seconds of New York's 3-2 win over Phoenix on Thursday night, DiPietro and the Islanders fought to hold on as the Coyotes pressed for a tying goal with a 6-on-4 skating advantage.

DiPietro pushed Shane Doan out of the crease, then got entangled with Jovanovski behind the net. Defenseman Brendan Witt came to his aid, and DiPietro got a roughing penalty for his work with 2.3 seconds remaining.

"That's not something I want to get too caught up in," DiPietro said. "I had a lot of traffic in front and there's only so many times you can get hacked and whacked without feeling the need to retaliate.

"When you've got guys like Witter around you, you feel a little bit better about venturing out."

He has 10 penalty minutes in 28 games this season.

"Ricky is a competitor, he's going to stick up for himself, he's not going to get pushed around," Islanders captain Bill Guerin said.

Maybe so, but guys like Witt and Chris Simon are the guys who are paid to take care of the pushing back.

"We like Ricky's competitive spirit for sure, but we definitely don't need him getting into any kind of fisticuffs," Nolan said. "We need him to stop the puck and let the other guys do that work. One thing with competitive guys, it's tough to take that part out of them."


SHUFFLING OFF: Patrick Kane turned over ticket duties to his parents for his first trip home as a budding NHL star.

The Chicago Blackhawks rookie forward, who entered the weekend with a team-high 30 points, has been anticipating his first game in his hometown of Buffalo - as one would expect for a 19-year-old.

Just don't ask him for tickets for the Saturday night game.

"Pretty much all of my relatives have gotten either like a box or something, a bunch of seats," said Kane, the No. 1 pick in this year's draft. "I really haven't had to worry about it too much. They didn't even put anything on me really. I'm just getting tickets for my friends."

Kane vaulted to the top of draft boards after putting up 62 goals and a league-high 145 points for London in the Ontario Hockey League last season. So far, the NHL hasn't proven to be too tough for him, either, as he's averaged a point per game for the first 30.

"It's fun. It's the NHL," he said. "You know, I'm 19 years old. I'm playing with another 19-year-old in (teammate Jonathan) Toews. We're just young kids and we don't really know any better. We just want to go out there, have fun, play the game, do whatever we can to help the team win."

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