Patrik Elias participates in one last pre-game skate before retiring
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Retiring Devils forward Patrik Elias participated in the pregame skate before the team's season finale Saturday, giving New Jersey's career points leader a final lap even though an injury kept him out of the lineup.
The helmet-less and admittedly nervous Elias smiled broadly before the game against the New York Islanders. He ripped his first shot into the open net and seemed to enjoy the 15-minute session. At one point, he sent a pass into the Islanders' end of the ice, trying to bank the puck off the skates of former teammate Stephen Gionta. He laughed even though he missed.
Elias then took a ceremonial opening faceoff, lining up against Gionta. Elias' two young daughters dropped the puck, and his wife was also on-hand.
''I kept it together until the end,'' Elias said. ''It was fun. I enjoyed being with the guys, playing soccer before obviously. That's always been part of my routine before the game.''
Elias scored on the Devils' final shot of the warmup, beating Saturday's backup, Cory Schneider, in a goal-mouth jam.
The Devils plan to retire Elias' No. 26 next season, but he felt this skate was a closure to his career. He announced his retirement last week and had a week of ceremonies with the Devils playing three home games.
Elias, who had knee surgery after last season, did not play this year. The Czech native believes he can still play, but he also has doubts that led to his decision to retire.
''I just hope that the fans who were coming to watch me over the course of my career, they'll remember me as a guy who got them out of their seats once in a while, put smiles on their faces and just got them excited to come watch a hockey game,'' Elias said.
Elias said his fondest memories are winning two Stanley Cups, playing with some of the game's greatest players and having great teammates.
Elias has not ruled out playing professionally in Europe, but that's a decision a couple of months away.
''I still love the game,'' Elias said. ''I still get excited for the game when I am on the ice, no matter what league it is going to be, whether pick-up hockey, or charity games and things like that. It's just enough, the competitiveness, and that's going to be in me.''
Elias is the franchise leader in goals (408), assists (617) and points (1,025). He ranks third in games played with 1,240, behind Ken Daneyko (1,283) and Martin Brodeur (1,259). He also is the Devils' single-season leader in points, scoring 96 in 2000-01.