Playing an old team for the first time isn’t something that Jamie Langenbrunner knows too much about. But that’s what happens when you play for just two teams in his 15-plus years in the National Hockey League.
On Tuesday night, he’ll get to do exactly that when New Jersey visits the American Airlines Center for the only time this season. Langenbrunner was traded from the Devils to the Stars on January 7, 2011 for a conditional third-round pick. He’s clearly stoked to get a crack at his former club, especially one he spent eight years and 568 games playing for.
“Well, anytime you play an old team, it’s a little odd at first, especially since I started the year first and had been there for eight or nine years. I think once the game gets going and you get into it, it’s like any other game,” he said. “We’re playing against a team that’s playing extremely well. It’ll be a good test for us.”
But he has been here before, in 2003. That was when he faced the Stars for the first time after they traded him and current Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk to the Devils in March 2002. It too is an experience he still remembers well.
“That was the following season too. I didn’t play them within that year. When the schedule comes out, you kind of look at that date and see when you play them,” Langenbrunner said. “Me, I do that and see when we go back to Minnesota. In the back of your head, it’s there. On the day I got traded, I knew when this one would be. I think having gone through it once before, it helps things. I’m excited.”
In 17 games with the Stars, he has two goals and six assists for eight points. His first goal during his recent stint with Dallas came in the 1,000th game of his career, a 2-1 win over Los Angeles on January 17.
Stars head coach Marc Crawford likes what the veteran winger has brought to his team thus far.
“He’s familiarized himself with our team and how we play. I think he’s at the point now where he’s very comfortable with the subtle changes in our system compared to the system that he was in,” Crawford said. “I think he’s now comfortable in our room that he feels that he’s got authority to speak. At the start, I think he played it very cool and very smart. He allowed himself to come in and allowed them to get to know him before he started to show his leadership. So he’s starting to show that now.”
When Langenbrunner was traded, the Devils were languishing in last place and many thought the trade would be the first of many moves, part of a New Jersey fire sale as they ran up the white flag and called it a season.
However, that was before Jersey made a coaching change, bringing on Jacques Lemaire. Now the Devils are 15-1-2 in their last 18 games and could very well make the Eastern Conference playoffs should they continue their recent upswing. Their former captain has kept tabs on how his former club has fared since his departure and also offers a take on why they have turned things around so quickly.
“I think it’s a combination of things,” Langenbrunner said. “It was coming along. The team was starting to come back to play the way it used to in the past. I think Jacques implemented a few things to push it along and get some consistency back in there. Guys are playing better and playing with more confidence. So much of this game is playing with confidence and going out there and just playing. You can tell that’s what they’re doing and they’re on a little bit of a roll. Hopefully we’ll do something to put a little bit of a stop to that.”
While fellow winger Jeff Woywitka wants to win this one for his veteran teammate, he admits there is something bigger at work here.
“Obviously it’s going to be exciting for Jamie. It’s his old team and he had some good years now. Most importantly, we’re looking at it as a game to get back on track and start playing the way we can and get a winning attitude back in this stretch,” Woywitka said.
The Devils and Stars drop the puck Tuesday night at 7:30 PM from the American Airlines Center. GET TICKETS