2005-10-28 / Sports

The NY Hockey Report – A Devil’s Education

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist


EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Last season was a learning experience for the Devils’ Zach Parise. With the NHL lockout, the former first round draft pick wasn’t forced into the big club in Jersey and had the chance to hone his skills on the professional game by playing for the Albany River Rats of the AHL.

It made his adjustment to the NHL a lot easier.

“It’s just a better game [up here],” Parise, who had 18 goals and 40 assists for Albany in 2004-05, said. “It’s definitely quicker.

Guys are more positioned and more disciplined.

The guys are so much better all around.”

Now the son of former Islander J.P. Parise is expected to help the Devils in the New NHL. In eight games this season, the younger center has two goals and two assists and with Patrik Elias on the shelf, the 21 year-old is expected to take a greater offensive workload.

Coach Larry Robinson is using Parise on his top line with Alexander Mogilny and Viktor Kozlov, which is helping accelerate the rookie’s growth.

“They are both really good guys,” Parise praised. “We talk on the bench and they talk on where I should go and help create more offence. It’s really important to pay attention to them on the ice.”

By playing with the two, he is learning what it takes to make it in this league.

“Some games you go on streaks when the pucks pop out and you get some good opportunities,” he said. “You need to find the areas where you think the rebounds are going to go and where the defenders won’t find you.”

Parise began his NHL career on the right note. He scored his first goal in the first period of the first game, which he felt was good to get out of the way. With his family in the stands, he was nervous, but “not because they were there.”

But there are so many winners on New Jersey and Parise knows he in the right place to succeed.

“Coming into a team with guys who won like this in the last 10 years, can help confidence-wise,” he said. “They know what takes to win, so you mesh with them and learn what it takes to win.”

Taken 17th overall in 2003, Parise learned that lesson back to the University of North Dakota, where he starred for two seasons. With 116 points in 77 career collegiate games, the Devils felts they had a steal when the center fell to them in the draft.

So far Parise is proving the scouts right.

**

After not being able to beat them for the past few seasons, the Islanders took two straight from the Rangers last week. After winning the first shootout for both teams on Wednesday at the Garden, they came out quick and scored three goals within the first three minutes the next night at the Coliseum in route to a 5-4 win.

Both arenas were loud and enthusiastic and much of the same was expected before this past week’s rematch.

“After losing twice to us and losing to Buffalo, I would expect the same,” Coach Steve Stirling said after the Islanders 4-3 win over Atlanta. “They have time to think about it, so I expect them to be up for it”

**

The Islanders still are not able to stay out of the penalty box, which is one reason why they have struggled, despite winning three of four games.

“Annoyed is not a strong enough word,” Stirling said after his team visited the sin bin 11 times in last Tuesday’s win. “The goaltending has been the one bright spot, night in and night out. We need to do a better job at giving them help.”

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