Devils' Tryout Sykora Finds His Groove at Center; Scores 3 Goals in Scrimmage

By Steve Palumbo

If there was any doubt that Petr Sykora could still put the puck in the net it was squashed during the New Jersey Devils first intra-squad scrimmage on Monday.

Sykora, who was drafted 18th overall by the Devils in 1995, is attending camp on a tryout, scored three goals to lead the Red Team to a 4-2 victory over the White Team.

The former 35-goal scorer with the Devils was a member of the teams famed “A-Line” along with Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott. The line was perhaps the most prolific in team history helping the Devils secure their second Stanley Cup back in 2000. The line helped the Devils score 251 goals in 1999-2000 and a league leading 295 in 2000-2001. To put that in perspective the Devils haven’t score more than 244 goals in a season since then.

If today’s scrimmage was any indication of what the 34-year-old Czech has left in the tank the Devils it could be a huge plus offensively for the Devils.

Last season New Jersey only potted 174 goals finishing last in the league with an embarrassing 2.08 goals per game. A motivated veteran like Sykora and the return of Zach Parise could be just the thing to jump start the lackluster offense.

What’s interesting is that although Sykora has played right wing for most his career, Coach DeBoer has been utilizing him at center in the early going of camp. During the scrimmage he centered a line with Stephane Veilleux and Dainius Zubrus on the wings. Zubrus assisted on two of his three goals.

Since the beginning of camp Sykora has repeatedly said he is being “realistic” about earning a roster spot. But, as long as Travis Zajac is out with a torn left Achilles tendon, Sykora may find that playing center is his best shot to continue his NHL career. It’s not like the center position in entirely foreign to him. Earlier in his career he played center in the with the Devils and the New York Rangers.

If he fails to earn a roster spot he has a contract with a team in the Czech Republic waiting for him. Although, clearly I’m hoping a rejuvenated Sykora plays himself onto the opening night roster. Elias and Martin Brodeur are the only players on the team with a Stanley Cup and another veteran forward wouldn’t hurt especially one that’s won a Stanley Cup.

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