With Dainius Zubrus facing the possibility of a long layoff following wrist surgery,New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello wasted little time in reacquiring a player who came aboard last season and became an instant asset.
Welcome back Alexei Ponikarovsky. He returns from the Winnipeg Jets for a 2014 fourth round draft pick and a 2013 seventh rounder.Ponikarovsky wanted to return to the team after becoming a free agent last summer, but the Devils were busy trying to re-sign Zach Parise, so he signed on with the Jets instead.
“I was surprised and excited in the same time,” Ponikarovsky, 32, on a Wednesday night conference call. “I know the team, I know the way they play and I think a lot of things and a lot of things that were done in the past kind of suits me. It’s one of those things that I can’t really control the trade and other things, but the only thing I can do is just come out and play the way I played before.”
Life in Winnipeg wasn't especially productive for Ponikarovsky, who had just two goals in 12 games. When acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes last season, the big forward scored seven goals and 11 assists in 33 regular-season games and one goal and eight assists in 23 playoff games. Returning to that level of production is what spurred Lamoriello to make the trade.
“He played our style,” Lamoriello said on the call. “He played in all situations and we really would have re-signed him except that at that time we were really waiting to see what we were going to be doing with another player (Parise) and it held up. And I don’t think he could wait any longer, which I respected. But he was a player that played extremely well for us throughout the playoffs and just fit into the sort of culture that we have here in New Jersey.”
“I know it was a tough situation in New Jersey in terms of ownership and all this stuff. Plus, Zach was a free agent as well and other guys as well,” Ponikarovsky said. “Winnipeg called and they offered me a contract and it just happened and it was one of those things you can’t really control and we went from there. They offered me a contract. They wanted me to come and play here and I said, ‘OK’ New Jersey just wasn’t ready to do anything at that time and I couldn’t take a chance and that’s what happened.Right now, everything is different and I hope we’re past that and we’ll go from there.”
That's the hope as Zubrus, a very productive veteran for the Devils faces the possibility of being sidelined with wrist problems.
“We don’t know what the results would be,” Lamoriello od an exploratory procedure that Zubrus will undergo. “It could be anywhere from two to eight weeks and that we won’t know until the next 48 hours. So, yes it was a factor as far being aggressive in this situation because of the size and strength void it left in the lineup, which Poni certainly brings. He’s an all-situation player and was used last year killing penalties, power play, as well as 5-on-5. And he knows the system.”
In other words, a perfect fit for coach Pete DeBoer.
Ponikarovsky is expected to be in the lineup for Friday night's game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
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