Elias Waits for Sykora to Drop Him a Line
By JASON DIAMOS
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., May 26 - If the Niedermayer brothers - Scott of the Devils and Rob of the Ducks - have the closest relationship of any participants in the Stanley Cup finals, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora might be a close second.
Elias and Sykora were practically inseparable as linemates on the Devils. After Sykora was traded last summer to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Elias said he and Sykora spoke by phone at least once a week during the regular season. Elias, a left wing, said today that it would feel weird playing against Sykora in the Cup finals, which begin Tuesday night at Continental Arena.
Elias does not know how Sykora, who plays right wing, feels about the situation. "He hasn't returned my phone calls for four days," Elias said.
"It doesn't have to be about hockey," Elias said of a possible topic for a phone conversation. "But that's fine. I guess he's trying to focus. I'll try to get in his ear on the ice."
When Sykora was asked if he would try to phone Elias or have dinner with him during the finals, Sykora said, "You can't do that."
To which Elias replied, "He's been pretty true to his word."
Sykora, who broke into the N.H.L. with the Devils during the 1995-96 season, felt a little homesick early in the season.
Elias said: "We spoke a lot more on the phone during the regular season than we ever did when he was here. That probably shows he missed what we had here. I did, too."
For the better part of four seasons, Elias and Sykora helped form the A-Line - one of the league's best forward units - with Jason Arnott, who was later traded to Dallas. But it seems Sykora, who has a view of the Pacific Ocean from his home in Newport Beach, Calif., has put New Jersey behind him.
"Sykie has found a great place to play, where there's not much pressure on him with Paul Kariya and Adam Oates around," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said of Sykora, who became the first player other than Kariya or Teemu Selanne to lead the Mighty Ducks in goals since Anaheim's inaugural season, 1993-94.
After a slow start, Sykora scored 34 goals, one off his career high in 2000-1. He scored only two goals in the first three rounds of the playoffs, but they were among the most important for the Ducks. Sykora's goal at 48 seconds of the fifth overtime gave visiting Anaheim a 4-3 victory over Dallas in Game 1 of the second-round series. It put an end to the second-longest game in the N.H.L.'s modern era and gave the Ducks the momentum they needed to win the series in six games. Sykora scored the only goal of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, which Anaheim won at 8 minutes 6 seconds of the second overtime. The Mighty Ducks went on to sweep the Minnesota Wild to advance to the Cup finals for the first time.
Scoring big goals is nothing new for Sykora. During the 2000 playoffs, he led the champion Devils with nine. In 2001, Sykora again led the Devils with 10 goals, as they reached the Cup finals for the second consecutive season.
But Sykora did not score a goal for the Devils during the playoffs last season, and he sat out two games with an ankle sprain. The Carolina Hurricanes eliminated the Devils in the first round. A few months later, the Ducks obtained Sykora by sending Jeff Friesen and Oleg Tverdovsky to the Devils.
"I was kind of confused," Sykora said. "I didn't know what to think. But I feel like I have a brand-new life now. It's worked out great."
Sykora, who had nothing but praise for the Devils' organization today, still has plenty of friends on his former team. The Devils' captain, Scott Stevens, said over the weekend that he also wanted to say hello to Sykora on the ice. "Hopefully, it will be when he's on his back," Stevens said with a laugh.
I don't know what to say about Elias wanting to get in his ear, and Scott Stevens wanting him on his back. :( I do like how his reaction to being traded was confusion, though. :P