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Pikkarainen may play

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J. - New Jersey Devils right wing Ilkka Pikkarainen was told by coaches "to be ready" following Monday's brisk morning workout at Prudential Center in preparation for the team's Atlantic Division showdown with the New York Rangers.

"Since the Devils drafted me (218th overall in 2002), I've been waiting for this day," Pikkarainen said. "They told me after practice and I'm ready to go out there. I know my role -- I like to hit guys, drive to the net and play with the puck when I can. I'll go to the net a lot."

Pikkarainen needs to come off injured reserve, meaning another player must be removed from the roster. A decision on whether or not the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Finn, who looks a heck of a lot like fellow countryman and Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen, will play won't be determined until later Monday. During Monday's skate, Rod Pelley was centering rookie Matt Halischuk and Pikkarainen.

"I like to play the North American style and I'm used to it since I was here for three seasons," Pikkarainen said.

Pikkarainen, 28, was drafted in the seventh round in 2002 and played three seasons with the Devils' AHL affiliate in Albany. He then returned to Finland and averaged 16 goals, 30 points and 129 penalty minutes over the next three seasons before returning to the Devils this summer.

Pikkarainen was placed on IR last week while recovering from a case of the stomach flu, but appears ready to roll. If he does get the nod against the Rangers, it would mark his first NHL game.

To create space on the roster for Pikkarainen, it's possible Brendan Shanahan could be removed. Shanahan is still on the 23-man squad despite the fact he and the organization mutually parted ways last week.
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