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Players react to Langenbrunner deal

Former captain was respected leader; ex-mates wish him well

Friday, 01.7.2011 / 5:06 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Players react to Langenbrunner deal
Zajac formed successful "ZZ Pops" line with Langenbrunner and Parise.
It’s not easy seeing a teammate and a friend traded to another club, especially when it's your captain.

After Friday’s practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion, the Devils players shared their reaction to the news that Jamie Langenbrunner had been dealt to Dallas. He was in his ninth season with New Jersey, and fourth as captain.

“It’s a sad thing because we put ourselves in this position,” said Patrik Elias. “It’s a tough situation. Jamie’s been my teammate for a long time. We won a Cup together (in 2003). He’s been a very good captain. He didn’t have an easy situation to be in. It’s sad and all you can say is to wish him well.”

The Devils (10-28-2) have dropped three in a row and 14 of their last 16. President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello addressed the media in a conference call and indicated he will have other decisions to make as the rest of the season unfolds.

Said Lamoriello: "I believe that right now we have to get a total consistent approach and everybody has to put aside whatever aspirations we had at the beginning of the year – whatever we looked at as the team on paper – and right now whatever decisions have to be made going forward will have to be made for the right reasons. There could be more, yes."

Among those impacted by Langenbrunner’s departure is Travis Zajac, who had tremendous success while they were linemates.

Zajac centered the potent "ZZ Pops" line that featured Langenbrunner on the right side and Zach Parise on the left. They ranked as one of the NHL’s top trios in 2008-09, when Langenbrunner hit career highs of 29 goals, 40 assists and 69 points. Parise scored 45 goals and 94 points that year, challenging the franchise’s single-season record in both categories.

Zajac recorded his first 20-goal season and enjoyed a 28-point improvement from the previous year.

“He was obviously a big influence on my career here, playing with him most of my career,” Zajac said. “I had a lot of success with him. He’s been a big part of this organization, he’s a great player, he’s been a great leader for us. It’s a situation where it’s tough losing a player like that. These things happen, and hopefully we can remain focused and continue to strive for our goal, which is to get better as a team, be more competitive as a team and win some hockey games.”

The players knew change was coming.

“We haven’t been a very good hockey team this year,” Zajac said. “I think Lou and management is trying to do whatever they can to make us better. Ultimately, the goal here is winning. I don’t know if more stuff’s going to come, but our focus has to be, whoever’s in the room, making sure we’re ready to play each night.”

Colin White faced Langenbrunner on the NHL’s biggest stage before sharing the thrill of a Cup victory together.

White was part of the Devils’ triumph over Langenbrunner’s Stars in the 2000 Cup Finals, when Jason Arnott clinched the championship in double overtime. White and Langenbrunner were then teammates in 2003, when New Jersey earned its third title in nine seasons.

“It’s always tough losing a friend, losing a great teammate and a great leader – somebody I looked up to and really respected,” White said. “It’s tough, but being in the situation we’re in this year, people’s hands get forced to do stuff. If we were in a better position, maybe it wouldn’t have happened.”

With 13 straight playoff appearances and four division titles in the last five seasons, this year’s struggles are unlike any the team has seen in over a decade. With 42 games to go in the 2010-11 regular season, the plan is to keep soldiering on.

“I don’t think anybody saw this coming, our record being what it is right now,” White said. “This is all new to most of the guys that are here. We put ourselves in this situation so we have to try to work and get out of it together.”