Sykora hat trick leads Red to scrimmage win
|Petr Sykora struck for three goals in Monday's scrimmage. (New Jersey Devils)|
A free agent tryout, the ex-Devil notched a hat trick in Red's 4-2 win over White in the first scrimmage of training camp.
"I got myself in the position three times to shoot the puck," said Sykora, who centered a line of Stephane Veilleux and Dainius Zubrus. "It went in today, but I don’t really worry about it going in. I just need to find myself in that position to get a shot. I was lucky enough that the puck went in today."
Sykora's getting a look at center, an area the Devils may need to bolster in the absence of Travis Zajac. Camp has opened with Patrik Elias centering Zach Parise and Jacob Josefson playing middle for Ilya Kovalchuk.
Normally a winger, Sykora figured it's been 14 or 15 years since he regularly skated at center. More recently, he played pivot for Jaromir Jagr during a stint with the Rangers in 2005-06.
It's been awhile, but that's fine with him.
"Whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to try to do it," he said. "Doesn’t matter what kind of position, what kind of stuff, I think the strongest part of my game is my shot. I think I can really help on the power play, just get the shot on for a rebound, or score a goal. I’m just going to take it day by day, and whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do."
It was only a scrimmage, but still a nice way for the two-time Stanley Cup champ to open some eyes.
"It’d be hard not to notice him and how he played," said coach Peter DeBoer. "To score three goals in a scrimmage is pretty impressive."
The two-time 30-goal scorer showed he can still put the puck in the net.
"Sure, you’re trying to make an immediate impression right away," DeBoer said. "That’s a good impression to leave for the first time that I’ve seen him."
But goals and quality scoring opportunities may be less of a challenge for Sykora than other parts of his game. He expressed frustration at having gone 2-for-20 on draws.
"I think everyone knows I can shoot the puck, but I have to do those little things like winning faceoffs," he said. "I have to always be on the strong side of the puck, always have to support my D when he pinches in. Just those little things. I think right now, that’s what I have to do and that’s my focus. Of course, I’m happy the puck goes in. I don’t care if I play hockey with my son in the backyard, if I score a goal, I’m happy."
He plans on working with assistant coach Adam Oates, who was one of the League's premier faceoff men during his career.
|Kovalchuk potted a goal for White. (New Jersey Devils)|
His utility up front means he won't be limited to making the team at center.
"I don’t think I would say that, but I know that he’s a very versatile forward," DeBoer said. "In my conversations with Lou [Devils' President/CEO/GM Lamoriello], who knows him better than I do, Lou thought his versatility was one of his assets. The fact that he’s stepped in here and played center, and done that without any complaints and looked the way he has is a good thing."
Red's lineup included Parise-Elias-Steve Bernier; Veilleux-Dainius-Sykora; Chad Wiseman-David Steckel-Vladimir Zharkov; Eric Boulton-Brad Mills-Cam Janssen. On defense, Anton Volchenkov, Mark Fayne, Matt Taormina, Anton Stralman, Alexander Urbom, Eric Gelinas, and Matt Corrente, with Keith Kinkaid and Maxime Clermont in goal.
The White lineup included Kovalchuk-Josefson-David Clarkson; Mattias Tedenby-Adam Henrique-Nick Palmieri; Tim Sestito-Rod Pelley-Mike Sislo; Mike Hoeffel-Steve Zalewski-Matt Anderson. On defense, Henrik Tallinder, Adam Larsson, Mark Fraser, Andy Greene, Brandon Burlon, Jay Leach, and Peter Harrold, with Hedberg in net.
Kinkaid switched teams and relieved Hedberg to start the fourth 20-minute period.
"When you’re rolling four lines like that, you’ve got some guys out there that are used to playing 20-plus minutes a night," DeBoer said. "When you’re rolling four lines, you’re playing 13, 14. It was an opportunity for us to get those guys’ engines going a little bit, do some conditioning. I think any player would tell you they’d rather play another period of hockey than get on the bike for 40 minutes. It was an easy decision."
Red took a 1-0 lead on Sykora’s goal at 7:54 of the first. He carried a pass from Zubrus and ripped a slapshot through Hedberg from the right circle. Kinkaid stopped Burlon’s breakaway chance in the dying seconds of the opening frame.
Sestito tied it for White at 10:05 of the second, getting his stick on Pelley’s shot from the right wall. Clermont then entered the game in relief of Kinkaid.
Sykora restored the Red lead with his second of the game. His shot from the slot handcuffed Hedberg to make it 2-1 at 15:41.
Bernier gave Red a two-goal cushion 18 seconds into the third. Kovalchuk put White back within a goal, 3-2, putting a Larsson rebound past Clermont from between the circles at 6:35. Sykora's third of the game made it 4-2 with 1:14 remaining in the third. The teams played a scoreless fourth.
Notes & Quotes
Martin Brodeur and Bryce Salvador did not skate in the scrimmage due to lower body ailments, which were called “nothing serious.”
"[Brodeur]'s got a little bit of a lower body stiffness," said DeBoer. "I don’t anticipate it being anything serious, but too early to mess around with that stuff."
Regarding Salvador, DeBoer added, "Same thing. Nothing significant, but again, this is a long process and we’ve got a lot of camp left. We want to make sure we do the right things with these guys in those situations."