EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ The New Jersey Devils are likely to
have their captain back for Game 2 against the Ottawa Senators.
A fever-free Patrik Elias skated during an optional workout for
New Jersey on Friday and plans to be in the lineup Saturday night
at the Continental Airlines Arena in what shapes up as a must-game
for New Jersey.
The Devils' captain missed the team's 5-4 loss to Ottawa on
Thursday night, sweating out the final symptoms of a flu bug that
has drained him since last Saturday.
Devils coach Lou Lamoriello had said that Elias was fighting a
``I feel fine today," Elias said after skating for about 35
minutes at the Codey Arena in West Orange. ``Obviously I am a
little tired after four days of not skating but I feel good enough
to play now."
While it might seem odd for a hockey player to miss a playoff
game because of either a cold or the flu, Elias is still feeling
the effects of a case of hepatitis he contracted playing in Russia
during the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
Elias missed more than the first half of 2005-06 NHL season
because of the illness. His immune system is still fighting to get
back to normal, so he can have problems when he catches a bad cold,
which happened this past weekend when the Devils traveled to Tampa,
Fla., for Game 6 of their first-round series.
``It knocked me out pretty good," Elias said. ``I had fever
aches, body aches. I have to be careful with that, so I stayed in
bed for four days straight and tried to get my fever down so I
Elias watched Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal at home
in his bed, admitting he did it in spurts since he doesn't like to
watch games on television.
It wasn't much fun, especially after Ottawa capitalized on a
couple of Devils mistakes and a few great shots to take a 4-0 lead
in the opening 17 minutes.
``It's difficult," Elias said of sitting out. ``Every game is
so important. This is what you play the whole year for. You want to
be in there to help the team but at the same time you have to be
smart enough not to be in there for one game and then miss three or
four. I hope we made the right decision."
Another loss at home would put the Devils in a 2-0 hole in the
best-of-seven series. Only once have they rallied from that deficit
to win a series, doing it in 1994 after losing the first two games
at home against Boston.
Elias was impressed watching the Senators, but he took pride
watching the Devils get within 4-3 early in the second period.
``We have to come out better tomorrow," said Elias, who had 21
goals and 48 assists playing on the Devils' top line with Scott
Gomez and Brian Gionta.
``Any time Patty is in the lineup, he's the best guy on our
team," Gomez said. ``He is our captain. As long as he's healthy,
that's the most important thing. I think any team would love to
have a Patrik Elias in the lineup."
Neither team is expecting a repeat of Game 1, which looked like
Ottawa dominated the opening 17 minutes. The Devils controlled
the next 23. The third period was more like a playoff game.
``It was a weird game," center Jason Spezza said Friday after
the Senators practiced at Floyd Hall in Montclair. ``We probably
won't seen another one like that."
The coaching staffs of the Senators and Devils both spent a lot
of time breaking down the first two periods and pointing out all
the mistakes, and there were a lot.
One thing that may be on the Devils side in Game 2 is history.
In 15 previous playoff series in their franchise history, the
Senators have never won the first two games. They have had seven
chances, including one against Pittsburgh earlier this year, and
not taken the 2-0 lead.
``I just hope we can win so we can stop talking about not
winning the second game of a series," Spezza said.
Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips said the Senators can't be
satisfied having taken the home-ice advantage away from New Jersey.
``The playoffs are so tight, and the teams get tougher and
better as you go along," Phillips said. ``We can't afford to spot
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)