Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Easy Out' Devils Recall Physical Gazdic

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Easy Out' Devils Recall Physical Gazdic

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS - Forget the Xs and Os or technical talk. The slumping Devils know they simply haven't challenged their recent opponents, either on the scoreboard or physically.

"As a team, we need to be a harder team to play against," defenseman Jon Merrill said after the Devils practiced Wednesday in Newark. "I think, right now, teams look at us on the schedule and look at it as an easy out.

"We don't want to be an easy out," Merrill added. "We want to be a team that competes against every team in the league and is tough to beat every single night."

Which explains why 6-foot-4, 225-pound forward Luke Gazdic will almost certainly be in the lineup when the Devils face the Blues tonight at Scottrade Center. The Devils have lost three straight by a combined 14-3 following Sunday's 5-0 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Gazdic, 27, signed to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700,000 in the NHL after three seasons in the Oilers' organization, was recalled from Albany (AHL) on Wednesday with Yohann Auvitu, a 27-year-old rookie defenseman who spent the past eight seasons in Finland, sent down.

Gazdic, who broke his left foot during the preseason, has two assists and 19 penalty minutes in 13 games for Albany and five goals, three assists and 194 penalty minutes in 136 career NHL games.

"Some of the teams we're playing, there are some bigger teams, some harder teams," Devils coach John Hynes said. "For us, there's got to be more heaviness. There's a physicality that's missing at times. We feel, as of late, we've been an easy team to play against."

Gazdic said he would bring a "blue-collar work ethic" to the Devils.

"It's making guys feel safe and comfortable," Gazdic said. "It doesn't necessarily mean going out and fighting. It's just making sure guys don't get pushed around and intimidated. It's letting teams know we're not going to get pushed around."

Gazdic's recall means the Devils have 15 forwards on the roster, so Hynes must choose which three to sit against the Blues. Hynes also didn't say whether Cory Schneider or Keith Kinkaid would start in net. …

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