Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Spring Break Just What Devils Needed

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Spring Break Just What Devils Needed

Article excerpt

TAMPA, Fla. - After two days of rest at a Florida resort, the Devils will return to the ice this afternoon for practice at Tampa Bay Times Forum to prepare for Friday night's game against the Lightning.

Although the players probably envisioned warmer weather - the temperature was in the 40s Wednesday morning - it was a welcome respite from the grind of a post-lockout schedule packed with games and lacking in quality time for the players to bond on the road.

General manager Lou Lamoriello said he, coach Pete DeBoer and the staff decided "months ago" to have the team fly to Tampa following Monday's game in Ottawa (a 3-2 shootout loss) rather than return to New Jersey. The GM added, "But the timing couldn't be better" for the players to nurse some bumps and bruises and recharge their batteries for the final 15 regular-season games.

"There are a lot of important games coming and just with the travel this year there hasn't been any road trips [with days off] at all," Devils captain Bryce Salvador said. "It's good for the guys to be together for a few days."

Fitting practices and rest days into the busy schedule has been among the "different challenges" DeBoer says he has faced in his second season in New Jersey. Another has been injuries, which are a factor every season, but seem to have taken a heavier toll on the Devils this season.

Goaltender Martin Brodeur missed four weeks with a pinched nerve in his neck/upper back before returning a week ago. Only two days later, however, star right wing Ilya Kovalchuk sustained a right shoulder injury that's expected to keep him out for two to four weeks.

Left wing Dainius Zubrus still is working his way back from Feb. 14 left wrist surgery and left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky remains out with a lower-body injury. With Salvador (lower body) and center Stephen Gionta (upper body) leaving Monday's game with injuries that don't appear to be serious, the Devils' depth has been stretched thin. …

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