11. march 2010 / CATCHING UP WITH PATRIK ELIAS
PATRIK ELIAS took some time out recently to talk about his 2010 Olympics experience, injury recovery and what it will take for the Devils to be successful in the final weeks of the NHL season.
#26 led all forwards in scoring while captaining the Czech Republic team with two goals and two assists in five games despite his squad failing to get past the Quarterfinals. For the Devils, Patrik has contributed 11 goals and 21 assists in 41 games and boasts a +13 rating. New Jersey is currently three points back from the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the Atlantic Division but will get a chance to take back sole possession of first with two contests with the Penguins on the horizon.
Q: This was your third time representing the Czech Republic in the Olympics. How did this latest experience compare to the others?
Patrik: I’d have to say that this one was the best experience. It was great for us hockey players because we were so close to everything that was going on. We stayed downtown and were able to walk from the village to the arena. It was really cool to be around the people and see how excited they were about hockey. Vancouver is a beautiful city and it looked great all set up.
Q: Television ratings were through the roof for Olympic hockey, do you think that this exposure will increase the popularity of the NHL?
Patrik: Being in Canada helped a lot because it’s a hockey country, but the ratings were good even in the US. It makes sense because it’s a very exciting level of play. For the players, getting on the ice is something we love to do, but at the same time it is a business so hopefully it will help.
Q: How difficult was it to deal with the concussion you suffered from being hit hard on January 16 in Colorado?
Patrik: It was tough because you don’t feel yourself. You feel tired and just want to rest. Health is the most important thing so I listened to my doctors and followed their instructions and gradually started feeling a lot better. It took them 14 years to knock me down so hopefully I go another 14 without something like that happening again.
Q: Jacques Lemaire is the type of coach who will jumble lines whenever he sees an issue with the offense as evident from the different lines you have played on this season. How has this coaching style worked out for you?
Patrik: If the line has chemistry he’s going to leave it alone, if it doesn’t he’ll change it up, which I think is fine. I’ve been a part of teams where you always have a set line and I’ve been a part of ones where you’re always changing it up. You just have to adjust to it and make sure you do your job. Sometimes it helps to get a different look to hopefully jumpstart something.
Q: The Devils have made some roster changes throughout the season and it appears now that the team has some great depth despite the recent slump. What are your thoughts on the current roster?
Patrik: We do have some great depth, but it’s all a matter of results and lately the points haven’t been there like we’d like them to be for whatever reason. We’ve tried to approach the problem because we have to right the ship as soon as possible. I do believe that we have a very well balanced team. Obviously we are more of an offensive threat with Ilya Kovalchuck in the lineup and adding Martin Skoula on D was a good move because he is a very responsible and solid defenseman. Also, Paul Martin will be back soon and that of course will help—he’s been one of our best defensemen for years.
Q: What can the Devils change in their game to get back to consistent winning?
Patrik: Sometimes you go through ups and downs and right now our game isn’t exactly where we want it to be. I believe that we will turn it around. It just goes back to basics and hard work.
Q: You have some big games coming up, most notably two with the Penguins who currently hold a small lead over the Devils. How do you think the team will respond to the high pressure contests?
Patrik: There’s pressure on all of us to succeed. You have to do the best you can and not put too much pressure on yourself. These are tough games but they’re worth it and when you succeed it picks you up and puts you in a different level. With the season on the line down the stretch every point is so important. It elevates you, no question about it.
Q: On St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), the Devils will pay homage to their origins by donning the red, green and white colors. As a long time Devil, how does it feel to be honoring the early years of the franchise?
Patrik: I think it’s great. It’ll be nice for the fans to see the old look and it’s going to be fun for our team as well. It’s going to be an exciting game.
Q: Not to mention, last St. Patrick’s Day was the night you became the Devils all-time leading scorer…
Patrik: Yes, that’s right! Well, hopefully I can repeat that performance.