Patrik Elias has played more than 1,200 games for the New Jersey Devils, but he didn’t play Sunday against Boston despite the fact he was available and healthy. That has never happened before.
DETROIT – Until Sunday, Patrik Elias had played 17-plus seasons and more than 1,200 NHL games without ever being held out of a game in which he was available to play. Not only is Elias all right with that, he doesn’t even consider it the first healthy scratch of his career.
And when he talks about his role as a “third- or fourth-liner,” and puts up finger quotes when he says the words, he’s doing so knowing the reality of the situation. And that is that he’s a 39-year-old player who missed the first 20 games of the season with a knee injury. He also knows that less than four months before his 40th birthday, he’s playing with house money.
“Let’s not call it a healthy scratch,” Elias said. “A healthy scratch would be for the reason that (the coach) might not be happy with the way I’m playing. At my age and with the issues I’m having, it’s OK to give me a night off, especially when we play five games in eight nights. It’s fine. You look around the league and even young guys like (38-year-old) Marek Zidlicky is getting the night off on back-to-backs. So why not me?”
With the exception of Shane Doan, there isn’t an active NHL player who has more continuous service to the same franchise as Elias. He’s on the final season of the three-year deal that pays him $5.5 million a season and even he acknowledges this might be the last one in the NHL for him. With GM Lou Lamoriello no longer in New Jersey, Elias faces the possibility that he might not be back in a Devils uniform next season. He’s at peace with that, but isn’t willing to give up on his career just yet.
“I’ve seen it happen to guys I felt would never go somewhere else. It has happened,” Elias said. “I’m not going to say I’ll never play for someone else. Hopefully I won’t have to make that decision. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get going. Usually I do after Christmas. It takes me usually 20-30 games. Don’t forget, I missed all of training camp and the first 20 games. So I’m only on Game 13. I still have time to get going. Playoffs maybe.”
Devils coach John Hynes referred to Elias’ removal from the lineup as a maintenance day instead of a healthy scratch and both said they have been on the same page about his approach to this season. Elias said it was made clear that if there were ever a time when either Elias or Hynes felt he needed a rest, the decision would be made to do so together.
“Let’s not make a big deal out of it because it could happen again,” Elias said. “The season is long and we’ve talked about it before I came back. We talked about it before the game against Anaheim (on Saturday). As a player, you want to play every game.”
In that game against Anaheim, Elias played just 10:31 his lowest output of ice time since coming back from the knee injury in November. The way he sees it, it’s probably just as well for him to sit out than play 10 minutes in a bottom-six role anyway. Elias feels he can still help the Devils win, but also acknowledges that the knee injury is still an issue.
“If I don’t feel 100 percent or close to it, I’m not going to play well. I’m going to look stupid out there,” Elias said. “I’m not going to do the things I’m capable of doing. So therefore you have to sit back and say, ‘Listen, this might be a good time to just take a night off.’ ”
TLUSTY FINE AFTER TALBOT HIT Devils winger Jiri Tlusty was no worse for wear a day after receiving from Max Talbot of the Boston Bruins what the NHL described as a “late, violent hit,” in which Talbot “drives his shoulder up into Tlusty’s chest and head.” In explaining its two-game suspension to Talbot, the league said the hit was suspendable because of “(Talbot’s) extreme lateness and predatory nature of the hit.”
Talbot was not penalized on the play and one of the reasons Tlusty thinks that was the case was that the hit was so late that the officials didn’t even see the infraction, which occurred when Tlusty dumped the puck in the corner for a cycle. The league’s threshold for the timing of a late hit is 0.8 seconds and Talbot’s hit far exceeded that.
“Everyone was following the play,” Tlusty said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. At a certain point I was expecting a hit, but it was probably a couple of seconds later. I took a couple of strides to curl up and he just finished the check. I watched the replay because I kind of didn’t know what happened and how it happened and it was when I watched it that I saw how late it was.”