Devils look to Zidlicky for offense from blue line

Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 12:17 AM / 2012 Trade Deadline

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello believes he has found a defenseman who can help his power play and provide some veteran leadership down the stretch -- and perhaps beyond if his club qualifies for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That blueliner is 35-year-old Marek Zidlicky, who on Friday was acquired from the Minnesota Wild for three players and draft picks after Zidlicky waived his no-trade clause. The deal was announced by Lamoriello during the second intermission of Friday's 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Prudential Center.

"We had an opportunity to get an experienced right-shot, puck-moving, defenseman who can also quarterback the power-play and has a lot of experience," Lamoriello said. "In my opinion, we had a chance to get someone who was better-suited to playing 5-on-5, move the puck out of the zone and jump in on offense with the type of forwards we have."

Devils forward Patrik Elias, a fellow Czech, is close friends with Zidlicky and was very happy when he received word that his teenage buddy would be joining the team. Coach Peter DeBoer anticipates that Zidlicky will be in the lineup on Sunday when the Devils play host to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Prudential Center.

"He's going to be a help," Elias said. "Offensively, he's very good and has a mean streak to him. I've known him since I was 14, and he's a great friend to me. I'm glad I'll be able to see him in the [Devils] uniform.

"I'll probably pick him up at the airport [Saturday] since he's going to need a ride and a place to stay."

Elias and Zidlicky played against each other on opposing junior teams in Kladno in the Czech Republic at teenagers; they have played together on several national teams.

"He's experienced and can move the puck," DeBoer said. "Don't forget, we have a good handle on this guy as a player. Patrik Elias knows him, [Assistant coach] Dave Barr worked with him in Minnesota and [former coach] Jacques Lemaire coached him in Minnesota. A lot of people know him as player and person, and the reports are positive."

The deal came at a price, however, as Lamoriello was forced to part with defenseman Kurtis Foster, forwards Nick Palmieri and Stephane Veilleux, a second-round pick in 2012 that the Devils previously acquired from Washington and a conditional third-round pick in the 2013 Draft. Minnesota will receive that pick if the Devils make the Eastern Conference Finals this spring and Zidlicky plays in 75 percent of New Jersey's games in the first two rounds.

Foster and Zidlicky were scratched from their teams' games on Friday night.

Lamoriello was asked if the injuries to defensemen Adam Larsson (back) and Henrik Tallinder (blood clot) forced his hand into making the deal for Zidlicky.

"I don't think that came into play because we know that Adam [Larsson] would be back soon, but the thought process of having so many young players without big-game experience did come into play and we had an opportunity to get one," Lamoriello said.

Zidlicky had said he'd be willing to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a move after he and coach Mike Yeo expressed dissatisfaction with each other. He has no goals and 14 assists in 41 games this season and is fourth all-time in scoring among Wild defensemen with 25 goals and 97 assists for 122 points in 241 games.

In his career, Zidlicky has 60 goals and 238 assists, along with 496 penalty minutes, in 548 games. He has one more season remaining on his contract.

Despite losing 2-1 to Vancouver on Friday night, the Devils are second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. The deal indicates they think they can make some noise in the postseason.

"The trade shows Lou's belief in the group and what we have going here," DeBoer said. "It was a high price to pay and we appreciate the efforts that Foster, Palmieri and Veilleux gave to the organization. This makes us better and, even more important, is the message to guys in the room that there is a strong belief in what we're doing and what we're capable of doing."

"I don't know much about him, but they gave up a lot so hopefully he's going to be a good player," goalie Martin Brodeur said. "It's definitely exciting to get a top defenseman on our team."

Lamoriello feels Zidlicky is a bona fide top-two defenseman who will log plenty of quality minutes.

"From what I've been told, he's an offensive defenseman with a great shot from the point, and he'll help our power-play," captain Zach Parise said. "When Foss (Kurtis Foster) came in, he really did a nice job helping our power-play get better; Zidlicky will do the same thing."