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Sykora smart signing for Devils

12/29/2011

The Devils took a chance on Petr Sykora, signing him to a one-year deal after an impressive training camp tryout this September. And the 35-year-old veteran continues to make that decision look like a damn good one.

Sykora tallied twice to boost the Devils 3-1 over the Sabres Wednesday in his first multi-goal game since January 28, 2009.

In his second stint with the Devils -- he spent four seasons with New Jersey from 1999-2002 -- Sykora has been an absolute steal of a signing. The Czech winger has 10 goals and 11 assists in 36 games for the Devils, all for the modest price tag of $650,000.

Coach Pete DeBoer didn’t know much about him going into training camp, but he likes what he’s seen so far.

“He’s really grown on me,” DeBoer said. “He’s a seasoned vet. He shows up, works hard, he does the right things, he’s great with the young guys and he’s filled a really big void for us there on the top two lines.”

Sykora has re-established strong chemistry with his old linemate Patrik Elias -- who assisted on both of his goals Wednesday -- and emerged as one of seven Devils to reach double-digits in goals.

Sprung by a sharp pass up the middle from goaltender Martin Brodeur, Sykora potted his first of the night, slipping the puck past a diving Ryan Miller for a 1-0 lead in the first. Elias then made a beautiful feed to find Sykora in front as he notched his second of the night and tenth of the season at 1:26 of the second.

“I’m getting the chance to play, I’m getting quite a bit of ice time and I’m getting the chance to play with great players,” Sykora said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

Given his two-year layoff from the NHL, the Devils didn’t know exactly what to expect. Sykora spent last season playing in Europe and had a disappointing 2009-10 season with Minnesota, during which he played only 14 games.

“There was a lot of uncertainty regarding where he would fit, how much we’d be able to play him. To his credit, he’s taken his second-chance opportunity and made the most of it,” DeBoer said.

Brodeur said he’s been happy to see the success of Sykora, who has re-emerged as an offensive threat and vital member of their club.

Especially with the route he had to take to get back to the NHL.

“When you leave the NHL its hard to get back, sometimes,” said Brodeur, who earned his third assist of the season. “It’s the hardest thing for a player who has had success to say, ‘Well I’m going to go without a contract and try to make the team.”

“It takes a guy that’s really committed to want to come back to NHL to do that. He did it and proved he is an important factor for our hockey club and we were able to sign him. It’s all to his credit, nobody else’s.”