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Devils sign Sykora to one-year deal; Parise named captain

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The Associated Press
10/5/2011 2:59:46 PM
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NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey agreed with Petr Sykora to terms of a one-year deal on Wednesday, completing the former Devil's bid to return to the NHL after an 18-month absence.

The 34-year-old forward last played in the NHL for the Minnesota Wild in 2009-10 and came into New Jersey's camp on a tryout basis.

"I went in with very small expectations for him," new Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "He came in as a late addition to camp, but I knew that he had a history with the club. I didn't think much of it."

Sykora, who was drafted by the Devils in 1995 and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2000, didn't give himself much of a chance, either.

"It didn't matter that I didn't have a contract," said Sykora, who was released by the Wild after playing in only 14 games. "For me, it was just important to get a chance to get back to the NHL."

DeBoer believes Sykora, who has 302 goals and 375 assists in 935 NHL games, can give the Devils some scoring punch.

"It's no secret that we were the lowest-scoring team in the league last year," DeBoer said. "Petr can score. He's managed to create offence and create it consistently through training camp. ... He has definitely surprised us, but he did what he had to do to win the job."

The Devils made salary cap room for Sykora on Tuesday by trading centre David Steckel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a fourth-round draft pick in 2012. But no one gave Sykora any guarantees about a contract until he arrived for practice Wednesday morning.

"I'm really emotionally drained by all of this. I didn't get much sleep last night," said Sykora, who played last year in the Czech League (13 games with HC Pizen) and the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia (28 games with HC Dynamo Minsk) and was set to go back to Russia before the Devils offered the tryout.

"When you don't have the offer, it's a crazy situation with the salary cap and all and you never know what's going to happen. But I'm very happy the way it worked out."

Rejoining the team where he started his NHL career makes it even better.

"I have a lot of support here in New Jersey. This is home for me," Sykora said. "Every year, I'd come back to New Jersey. I have so many friends here."

There is a chance that Sykora might be the right-wing on the front line with Ilya Kovalchuk on the left and Patrik Elias at centre.

The Devils also announced that Zach Parise had been selected as the team captain, with Kovalchuk and Elias serving as alternates.

"I was surprised, because I didn't know it was coming," said Parise, who signed a one-year deal with the Devils in the off-season as a restricted free agent. "I'm excited for it and it's a big honour. I have to just keep doing the same thing, keep leading by example."

Parise missed most of the 2010-11 season due to a knee injury, limiting him to 13 games. The 27-year-old Parise has been with the Devils for the last seven seasons.

DeBoer said a lot went into the decision to choose Parise as the captain. The Devils had been playing without a captain since trading Jamie Langenbrunner midway through last season.

"We have the luxury of having a lot of leadership candidates, a lot of good options," DeBoer said. "When you look at Zach, he plays the right way and carries himself the right way. There aren't a lot of flaws in his character. He fits the character needed to be a captain."

Petr Sykora (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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