EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—The New Jersey Devils may have rugged defenseman Colin White back for the second round of the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators. The concern now is Devils captain Patrik Elias.
Elias missed his second straight practice with a cold Wednesday, sparking concern that the left wing on the Devils’ top line might not be available for Game 1 in New Jersey on Thursday night. Elias saw a team doctor and was told to remain at home and away from the team.
Coach Lou Lamoriello said the illness is not related to the hepatitis that sidelined Elias the first half of last season.
“It’s a cold, but you want to make sure he is right,” Lamoriello said. “You certainly can’t control it.”
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said that Elias, who had 21 goals and 48 assists this season, was sick heading to Tampa, Fla., for Game 6 on Saturday.
“You want him to be in there, but if it takes the extra day, do it,” Brodeur said. “We’re a deep enough team where it should not affect us for one game. Having him is an asset though.”
The Senators, who beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games in the opening round, got some good news Wednesday. Goaltender Ray Emery practiced for the second straight day and will start Thursday. There was some concern Monday after he hurt his catching hand in practice and left the workout.
At the Devils’ practice, Erik Rasmussen skated with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta on the top line. If Elias is out, another possibility would be putting David Clarkson on the top line. He played well with Gomez earlier this season, scoring three goals in seven games after being called up from the minor leagues.
Lamoriello would not discuss his options, nor would he say whether White will return from a back injury that sidelined him for the final four games of the first-round series against the Lightning. Lamoriello said he will see how White felt Thursday.
The smile on White’s face said he was playing.
“I have been feeling better the last three days,” White said. “I feel really good. I feel back to normal. The guys gave me the chance to get the right rest by winning.”
White said the back injury was muscular and limited his movements for about six days. He was experiencing back problems before the playoffs started, he said.
If White does return to the lineup, the Devils have the option of dressing seven defenseman or sitting one who finished the series against Tampa Bay.
Richard Matvichuk replaced White in the lineup and was outstanding in the final four games, leading the team with 24 blocked shots. He was expected to stay in the lineup.
Oduya played 76 regular-season games; Green played 23 after being called up in January. Greene, however, seemed to play better than Oduya against Tampa Bay.
“Being a competitor, you always want to play,” said Greene, who scored the winning goal in the pivotal Game 5. “But a guy like White, he goes out and does his job well. It’s something that is part of the game. You have to deal with it and accept the decision.”
White is 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, and his size will be useful against the Senators, who like to bang in the corners.
“Not only does he bring the physical element, but he is a great penalty killer,” said Jay Pandolfo, the left wing on the Devils’ checking line and one of the team’s top penalty killers. “He just gives us a little more confidence back there.”