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Pelley has big shoes to fill

by Dave Lozo
Herb Brooks once said, "Great moments are born from great opportunity." Or maybe it was Kurt Russell playing Brooks who said it. Either way, that inspirational statement from the movie "Miracle" applies perfectly to the Devils' Rod Pelley.

After 10 seasons in New Jersey, checking center John Madden took his two Stanley Cup rings and Selke Trophy to Chicago, leaving a large hole for the Devils to fill. But not long after Madden departed, General Manager Lou Lamoriello said he had someone in mind as a replacement -- Pelley.

"To come out public like that, there's a lot of confidence," Pelley said. "You're basically telling the player, 'You better be ready. This is your opportunity. It's in your hands now.' That's basically how I interpret that. That's what I'll be ready in September for."

Pelley, who will be 25 when the 2009-10 season starts, had his first NHL opportunity in 2007-08. He spent 58 games with the Devils, but contributed just 2 goals and 4 assists in limited ice time. Pelley never got back to the big club in 2008-09, spending the entire season in the AHL with Lowell.

This time around, Pelley will try to apply the knowledge he's gained in the minors to what could be a much bigger role with the Devils.

"(Spending last season in the AHL) helped me a lot," Pelley said. "I played a lot of hockey in all different situations. We didn't make the playoffs, which was disappointing, but I thought I worked on little things that I needed to work on to get myself more prepared to play in the NHL."

Unfortunately for Pelley, the best way to get prepared for the NHL is to play in the NHL. There's just no way for him to be able to replace Madden's experience. To give you an idea of just how far apart they are in that department, Madden has played more playoff games (112) than Pelley has played NHL regular-season games (67).

If Pelley is going to step into Madden's spot in the lineup, he can expect to be matched against the opposition's top lines. Madden also was a huge part of the Devils' penalty-killing unit. He also holds the franchise record for career shorthanded goals (17).

But Pelley knows he can't get swept up in all the inevitable comparisons that will come if he makes the team this season. He knows that trying to be Madden isn't what's best for him or the team.

"Mentioning his name in the same sentence as mine, that's pretty humbling for myself," said Pelley. "I look at it as I've got to go out there and just be Rod Pelley and work hard and try not to compare myself to John Madden in any type of way."

"It's definitely an opportunity. It's up to myself to take advantage of it."

Pelley certainly is saying all the right things. If his play can match his demeanor, he should fit in just fine.

Contact Dave Lozo at

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