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F(ree Agency) This.

Us Devils fans are a naive bunch.

It’s the only period over the course of a seemingly never-ending summer that a hockey fan can get their fix. Free Agency. It’s irresistible to wonder over the possibilities of who could be lacing up their skates in your building come October.

Could Marian Hossa be coming to town? Nope – Chicago locked him up forever. Maybe sniper Mike Cammalleri will be suiting up in Black ‘N Red next year? Nah, he’d rather Blue ‘n Red. Havlat? Nope. Gaborik? Ha. Niedermayer coming home?? Pshh. Perhaps we could bolster the blueline with guys like Mike Komisarek or Mattias Ohlund? Nien. Ok, we’re obviously saving money for Koivu… or not.

But I’ll tell you what we can do… We can say goodbye to one-third of our starting forwards and wish good will to the goaltender who saved our arses last season. Wait…wha?!

So thus far it’s a big See Ya! to John Madden, Brian Gionta, Bobby Holik, Scott Clemmensen, and Mike Rupp. And a great big how-do-ya-do to… Ilkka Pikkarainen.

Ugh.

Last year it seemed as if Lou was trying to reunite the rosters of glory days-past. This year, the reunion will be ending with an awkward and uncomfortable orientation.

But, then again — it’s Free Agency and we’re Devils fans.

I mean, really.

DEVILS MAKE A SIGNING!!!!!!!!!

Today the Devils signed former draft pick Ilkka Pikkarainen.

Exciting, right?

The 28-year-old forward spent the last three seasons in Finland, posting 24 goals and 13 assists for 37 points in 54 games last year. He also racked up 149 penalty minutes.

The 220 pound Pikkarainen should add a physical edge to the Devils roster, ‘specially after losing the amazing all-star Bobby Holik to retirement and the wonderfully mediocre Mike Rupp to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Orrrrr, could it be possible that the Finn was signed to potentially entice another European player to the join Black ‘n Red?

Saku, I’m talkin’ to you.

…I know, I know. One can dream, right?

Oh, yeah, for the sake of reporting, Pikka was the 218th pick in the 2002 Entry Draft for New Jersey.

Fancy.

And another one bites the dust!

Reports out of New York indicate that the New Jersey Devils will take at least two less penalties a game next season.

That’s right, ladies ‘n gents, Bobby Holik is no longer with Black ‘n Red.

After 18 seasons, 11 with the Devils, the 38-year-old bruiser has decided to hang ’em up.

His reason? He wants to be a family man.

Best of luck, Bobby. Just don’t take any cross-checking penalties with your kids. I heard those could be pretty lethal with children.

In all seriousness, thanks for a great career in New Jersey. I’ll let the whole “EFF YOU GUYZ I’M GOING TO THE RANGERS LOL!!!” thing slide. Just this once. Don’t Brett Farve this shizz and come out of retirement, like, seven times and go play with, I dunno, the Flyers or something.

Actually, you kind of really sucked this year. That might not be such a bad thing…

This is worse than a hangover.

I sit here in my Windy City apartment, fighting back the urge to kick my vibrating fridge, wondering what the heck happened last night.

We were so close.

How does a team go from glory to undeniable shame and defeat in the span of a minute-thirty? No heart? No drive? No courage?

No killer instinct.

Let’s face it, boys and girls, this team could have easily put this game away last night. There were odd man rushes, two-on-ones, heck, a four minute man advantage and — nothin’. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

I could go on, but it hurts my heart too much.

Oh, who are we kidding? My heart was ripped from its casing last night and severed to millions of tiny bleeding pieces by the sharpened skates of 23 men.

It hurts.

I do not think this team didn’t have the guts to get the job done. The Hurricanes were simply the better team. Aside from flashes of brilliance and a jewel of a Game 5, Cam Ward was the better goaltender.

Our defense is mediocre at best — yeah, Havelid, go hide in a ditch somewhere west of the Delaware. You are not welcome in New Jersey anymore.

While our offense kicked it up seven THOUSAND notches this season, guys like Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik don’t hack it. Thank goodness we weren’t subjected to Holik’s obligatory three stupid penalties last night, and while it’s fantastic that Rolston finally got a goal, I’d really like to give another Brian all the credit for that tally. Thank you, Mr. Gionta. Whether your on-ice awareness succeeded or you merely blindly threw the puck towards the boards and it just happened to bounce right to Rolston’s stick — I don’t care. It was awesome and one of the few things I can actually smile about after last night.

What do we do? Fire Sutter? Plead for Brodeur’s retirement? Take the entire defense outside and send them into the depths of Newark, just hoping they won’t return safely?

I’m not sure.

All I know right now is that I’m sitting in an apartment with an annoyingly loud vibrating fridge, overlooking the glowing red of the Sears Tower as Chicagoans rejoice, for their team has made it to the second round and mine hasn’t.

Life just doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Dearest Patricia,

While we thank you for returning Patrik Elias safely, your continued lurking has the players concerned.

Zach Parise hasn’t been scoring (today doesn’t really count), Colin White fled the team in fear and Bobby Holik hasn’t been able to make a single Geico promotional appearance in more than a month.

While we promise to leave it all on the ice this week, we will only do so if you agree to leave your creepy mccreeperson behavior out of our facilities.

Supremely awesome,

The New Jersey Devils

Hurricanes @ Devils SORTA-CAP!

9:29 PM: Game over.  I can’t believe this, I thought this team was too good this year for the annual March swoon, but…I don’t know.  2-1 Hurricanes.  Good thing I only did a half-assed Cap tonight.  Goodnight.

9:28 PM: 10 seconds left, Devils on the offensive zone faceoff.

9:26 PM: Less than a minute to go and the Devils pull the goalie.  That missed penalty is brutal, Langs right next to the Carolina net in a goalmouth scramble.  Just brutal.  Timeout Devils.

9:24 PM: Scramble in the goal month and we can’t buy a penalty, despite Captainbrunner getting his feet taken out from under him.  I think that’s probably the end of the game for us now.

9:22 PM: Oh for eff’s sake.  Rutuu pounds home a rebound and it’s 2-1 Hurricanes.  C’mon now, this is sad.

9:21 PM: Paul Martin takes some sort of penalty.  Hooking, I guess.  Four minutes left in the game.  Gulp.

9:15 PM: Goddammit.  Clarkson can’t clear it, and eventually Samsonov bangs home a rebound.  1-1 game, and we can stop holding our collective breath for shutout 102 now.  Sad.

9:08 PM: If Zubbie’s name was Scott Stevens, there would have been a Hurricane on the ice that you’d need a ShamWow to mop up.  Alas, Zubbie ain’t Scotty, and the open ice hit didn’t even knock the other guy down.

9:00 PM: Mike Rupp takes a high sticking penalty.  Rats.

8:55 PM: That woulda been a nice breakaway if anyone but Bobby Holik were the one sprung on it.  Instead of being a breakaway, though, it became more of a one-on-two slapshot-into-the-goalie’s-crest type deal.  Sigh.

8:36 PM: Second period, over.  Remains 1-0 Devils.  Decent period, nothing great, but not god-awful, either.  CRAZY saves on each end of the ice.  Zach should be at goal #43 if not for a crazy shortstop like dive by Cam Ward, while a pair of ho-hum-just-another-wicked-insane-Marty-glove-save keeps it a slim Devils lead heading into the third.

8:25 PM: Marty with another stellar save and then a bunch of scrummy stuff in front of the net.  Some guy named Convoy and Colin White get angry at each other, and MSG+ catches them yelling at each other from their respective penalty boxes.  Funny as hell.   Also, PIERRE CHAMPIOUX SIGHTING!

8:18 PM: Dammit Cam Ward, don’t you know you’re not supposed to make stops like that on Zach Parise?  Goaltender’s duel tonight for sure, sick save for sick save.

8:14 PM: I think Zubbie is protesting the 27 Dresses picture.  Between last night and that trip…jebus Zubbie, have a sense of humor, man.  Also, flat out ridiculous save by Marty.  RI-FRIGGIN-DICULOUS.

7:43 PM: Welp, that Elias goal certainly woke me up.  Perhaps I was being unfair on this game because of my own mental state.  It wasn’t that bad, and they seemed to wake up a bit as the game went on.  Only one penalty called, against the Devils, but that’s still an improvement over the last few games.  Big hit by Patty Elias late in the period, knocking Babchuk over, which is cool by me.  Devils lead 1-0 after one.

7:38 PM: Ooooooooh!  Odd-man rush, Madden dashes in as a decoy while Gionta passes to a trailing Elias and we gots ourselves a lead!  1-0 Devils.

7:34 PM: Spoke too soon, Niclas Havelid held someone.  Great.

7:30 PM: Maybe it’s because I’M tired, but the team looks terribly tired tonight.  Marty’s bobbling pucks, passes are off the mark.  No penalties yet, at least.

7:16 PM: See?  It’s a good thing I’m only Sorta-Capping this thing.  Slow start so far.

7:09 PM: Puck’s on the ice.  Doc’s intro was…weird.

6:32 PM (Pre-game): I know what you’re thinking…”Sorta-Cap?!”  Let’s just put it this way – I don’t feel particularly well this evening.  It’s been an exhausting week.  I’m not sure I have the ability to give you a good, insightful, funny-type LiveCap.  But I also don’t wanna just, y’know, do nothing.  We’ve been doing nothing ’round here too much lately.  So, the Sorta-Cap.  I’ll update after each period and occasionally when the fancy strikes.  And if, at some point I disappear, avenge my death.  (Or I fell asleep.  Whichever.  You can still avenge me, though.)

Thoughts from Section 209…. Devils/Rangers 2/9/2009

Damn kids, that was almost TOO easy wasn’t it??? Don’t get me wrong it was fun, it was great, it was badly needed after the 24 hours leading up to it (you get a 1am call that your pregnant sister is in the hospital… she turned out to be ok at least, was just scary, and then have to cover for a co-worker who’s father died, and you’re already worn out… least that game was wonderful therapy!)…. but it kinda felt a bit …. one-sided didn’t it?

the Good:
— if you had told me at my first pre-season game that Scott Clemmensen would be shutting out the Rangers in February, and done it in this way, I’d have slapped you and told you to put the PS-3 down :p… guess this kinda kills my “well his play dropped when they announced Marty’s return” theory… unless he was reading this… it HAS happened before to my writings… hrrmm… (not that he was really truly tested past the 1st period)
— Bobby Holik (no penalties tonight!!!) a game-winning goal against the team paying most of his salary still… and assisted by the guy they didn’t want and the one they wish they had… I call that… fitting 🙂
— not to mention watching Zajac and the Shanny hold off the Rangers behind sir puffy-pads one on FOUR all by themself… and then Shanny drawing the penalty… oh that was the awesome
— seeing the real Scott Gomez (and his only scoresheet entry being on the penalty box) in Ranger blue has been DELIGHTFUL… 5 more years to go right?? (not to mention Gomez’s pissy fits all night on Zubrus, who must have kept saying… hey I’m more productive at a third the price… can I borrow some money??
— no knock on Jay Leach, but each and every time Colin White comes back into the lineup this team gets better… and another night… another 2 goal effort out of Zach Parise (back up to top 5 scoring in the NHL) and playing as good hockey as ANYONE in the league….still feels weird to say that about a DEVIL

the Bad:
— Mike Rupp… GLASS JAW FATALITY…. you did get knocked da fuccckkkkk ouutttttt!!! Guess even the most desperate in Ranger-land can cling on to that one
— This may come off as wrong… but damn were the Rangers dead in the water or what?? You kinda saw it… they GAVE UP mid-second period (basically after the first goal)… and it kinda took out a lot of the fun….I mean it’s always nice to pound them like cheap veal (I do remember the great 19!!! 19!! Chant after 19 games unbeaten in a row on them)… but holy shit you kinda want the team you want to beat to put an EFFORT in and play back some don’t ya?? They remind me of how emotionless and dead in the water the NY Jets were with Brett Favre mailing it in last December.. case in point I was texting my Ranger fan buddy in the expensive seats about this:
“Dude where’s the effort”
“This has been this team all year.. no scoring… no effort they don’t care”
“Hey at least it’s not 10-2”
“It’s still the second period… just watch”
“Damn, well at least Parise can pad his stats then!”
It kinda wasn’t even fun at this point!
— So Dallas puts a 10-spot on them… and all we can do is 3?? CMON OFFENSE!!! (seriously I think the Devils fed off the dead-effort from the boring-trapping Rangers and seriously took the foot off the gas content to embarrass them via Clemmensen-shutout and no other way)

the Funny:
(and oh was there funny tonight!)
— Maybe one of the best moments was during the 3rd period…. standard yelling from behind us….
HEY LUNDQVST.. YOU SUCK…..AND I HOPE YOU DIIIIIEEEEEE
… then out of the blue… the 4 year old to my left jumps up…..
AND I HOPE YOU GET THE FLLLUUUUUU!!!!! (them 209ers, we raise good eggs!!!)
— Also sidenote to Bill (he who bought one of the 2 tickets I had up for grabs last night)… I know you wanted to sit on the steps because we scored twice in the 2nd period… but when two attractive beer chugging girls want to thank you for letting them sit in the seats…. GO WITH IT, thank them… and TALK TO THEM… geesh (dude was lucky I was there to save the moment and keep them entertained…. they told me so… hell by game’s end they asked me to spot them some lovely RANGERS SUCK confetti to throw back on me!!! Speaking of…pics of the confetti mess soon to be put on facebook!)… though… it was kinda WRONG of me to let those girls sit in his seat… while he was buying me a thank you for the seat beer… but asshole is something I do well ain’t it??
— the only thing missing last night was a THANK YOU RENNEY chant (which would have been amazing!)
— Devils Power Play goal!!! And I’m getting texts… IT’S A POWER PLAY GOAL… FUCK YOU SAM ROSEN… ahh goodness!!!
— hey I’m SURE others in attendance have their stories…. share them dammit!!!!

Thoughts from Section 209 ….Devils… Penguins… Dec 10!

Well that was fun wasn’t it??? (Feels like I ain’t been to the damn place in MONTHS… and all the staff looked different, and a double boo-hiss on the choice of cigar girls tonight, hey I gotta bitch about something right??)… I could sit and complain on how we go a damn near MONTH without a game and then 3 in 4 nights?? (and the crowd was VERY late arriving tonight….kinda took a while to feel “back”)

And to be honest I think tonight’s game was maybe the most gratifying win I’ve seen this team have in the new arena!! So lots to be happy about here…

    the Good:

— Damn I missed this place and the wacky stuff I get from my lapping the place, and the free lil cups of soda (even though I am trying to give up soda, but whatever.. free is free!)
— The Devils basically kicked in… out worked… out hustled and ran the damn Penguins all over the place (hence the warm feeling in the belly much like the perfect serving of your most awesome meal!)
— the comedic timing in the CROSBY SUCKS and PARISE’S BETTER chants and then Crosby going bat-shit and trying to Pedigree Gionta on the ice (shame Gio’s not a wrestling fan, he’d know you go back body drop to stop the Pedigree :p)
— Putting the Parise or Zubrus lines on Crosby and girls allowed US to control the puck and spin pretty circles around them and KEPT THE PUCK AWAY FROM THEM a good amount of the game and this is one MAJOR coaching adjustment (and from hints Sutter’s been saying since he’s been here one he’s always wanted) that you can NOT argue about ever!
— Bobby Holik hit every goddamn thing in sight that wasn’t wearing referee stripes and it was an amazing effort (I counted six hits alone in the first two periods)… the big nasty bastard is BACK!!
— Colin White… excellent game AGAIN… and TWO ASSISTS!!!!! (remember kids it IS ok to jump up and yell WHITE POWER when Colin makes a play!!)

    the Bad:

— Yes I do love this hockey team (obviously)… thankfully it’s not as obsessive and compulsive as it was in the old CRASHER Line days (re: not human and no wonder it took only psycho girls to date me)…. and yes I enjoy going to the games… but my main objective each time I go to a Devils game… I GO TO HAVE FUN AND ENJOY THE GAME with the friends I am making in Section 209…lately said other people in the section are bitching and complaining about this… whatever… but like I said as much as I follow what goes on in every game (damned if I could write this if I didn’t??) … I take shit for the fact I’m not afraid to go off topic to achieve my main goal… enjoy myself for the 2-3 hours I am there… have some fun.. laugh and forget about all the other mass bullshit in my life now, am I a bad fan?? I doubt it… do I take the games lightly… I should… it’s FOR FUN AND ENTERTAINMENT… and I just wanted to get that peeve off my chest (and it’s not like exactly 209 is bringing it’s A-Game every night either)
— If Martin Brodeur ever got as lucky as Scott Clemmensen got tonight (posts… missed nets all that crazy stuf)… no one would EVER score on him…. but hey luck is better then good sometimes….
— Madden and Pandolfo again kinda looked LOST… at best… not a pretty night for the former heart of the Devils strategy, and one of my favorite players in Madden….
— Bryce Salvador… OUCH… right in the face (though it was funny to see mister “hey why don’t you quit yapping and watch the game wonder why it was a penalty till I told him it was a wrist shot to the face and a non-penalization, unless you hit Crosby :P)
— the 5-forward power play look, while it was decent tonight.. scares the LIVING SHIT OUT OF ME!

Back at it in 48 hours… and don’t forget to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me if ya see me Friday or Saturday (I want my birthday attention for a RARE Devils home birthday game on Saturday!)

Brian Gionta Goes Splat.

Crikey, it’s getting old. Brian Gionta just got pushed off the puck hard, and it looks like he hit both shoulder and head against the unforgiving Detroit boards. He skated off on his own power, but has yet to return to the game, which currently sits at 2-1 Detroit after two periods, on the strength of a pair of Marian Hossa goals. Parise notched a deflection off an Oduya slapshot for the Devils only tally so far.

Edit: As the third period is starting, it becomes apparent that Bryce Salvador has not returned to the ice either. Salvador was hit by a puck in the second period, leading to Hossa’s goal. Sigh.

So, the updated injury counter:

Martin Brodeur, torn bicep
Brian Rolston, high right ankle sprain
Bobby Holik, broken pinkie
Andy Greene, broken hand
Paul Martin, upper body soreness
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, cracked orbital bone
Brian Gionta, unknown head/shoulder injury
Bryce Salvador, some kind of puck-to-knee injury

Add to that Matt Halischuk’s apparently serious leg injury suffered in the L-Devils game at Wilkes-Barre the other night, and the Devils are short EIGHT players, less than one calendar month into the season.

Ouch.