This isn’t the way I was hoping to prepare my final recap of the season. I was hoping that we’d be celebrating something incredible on Wednesday night, but clearly, it was not meant to be this season. After a pair of hard-fought victories by the Devils in Games 4 and 5, their season and the NHL season came to an abrupt halt on Monday night, as the Kings won their first Stanley Cup championship in their nearly half-century of existence. Here’s how it all went down on Monday.
A familiar face was in the New Jersey Devils training camp this September, that face being 34 year old veteran Petr Sykora. Long time fans will remember Petr from his first stint with the Devils that ran from 1995-2002. Sykora was 1/3 of the infamous “A-Line” which also featured Jason Arnott and fellow Czech and Devils all time leading scorer, Patrik Elias. The A-Line was one of the most productive lines in the NHL for a couple of seasons, culminating in a 2000 Stanley Cup Championship.
Petr was invited to camp this year and most onlookers viewed the invitation as a gesture of good will. The Devils organization has a long time tradition of looking after their players; both past and current, and none in the game give and have garnered more respect than Devils’ General Manager Lou Lamoriello. Many in hockey circles whispered that Sykora wouldn’t make the team which is seemingly loaded with forwards, many of them young and hungry. Well hockey pundits, looks like Petr is making you think twice. Sykora has been rejuvenated by his return to New Jersey, where he first served notice that he wanted to stick around by netting a hat trick in an intrasquad scrimmage game during training camp. Petr’s play in camp earned him a spot on the roster for some preseason games, where he recorded 2 goals and an assist. In Petr’s last couple of preseason games he has been skating on a line with longtime friend Patrik Elias at center and Zach Parise. Could we be watching A-Line 2.0 in the making? Most fans can’t help but feel nostalgic about seeing these guys playing together again nearly 10 years after Petr’s departure from New Jersey.
NHL players, coaches and General Managers alike will tell you that often a player’s shot is the last thing they lose. Petr certainly still has his and wants to be using it in the NHL this season. Has Petr done enough to earn a spot on the 2011-2012 New Jersey Devils roster? It appears so, but only time will tell. The fans and Petr alike will likely learn his fate at some point on Wednesday. If Sykora is here to stay, expect to see small waves of #17 jerseys around The Rock that do not have “KOVALCHUK” emblazoned on the back of them, but rather the name of an old friend, “SYKORA”.
Prediction: Sykora makes the roster and plays with Elias and Parise at times. He may be tried out on different line combinations to see where he fits and helps the team best. I also expect him to see some time on the 2nd power play unit throughout the season. Fifteen goals and 25 assists sounds like a great season for Petr Sykora!