Tuesday, October 15, 2002
By DAN ROSEN
WEST ORANGE - Scott Gomez remembers his dad yelling at him as a kid after he took the puck end-to-end three times in one shift. Ever since, the Devils' fourth-year center has learned that end-to-end is not as simple as going from point A to point B.
The 5-foot-11 Gomez is the Devils' setup guy, their version of Jason Kidd. He even jokes with teammates that if he were a few inches taller, he could have been a quarterback because of his peripheral vision.
Gomez had two assists in Saturday's win over Columbus, including a pass to Patrick Elias, his new linemate, which resulted in the game-winning goal with 7:40 remaining.
"Don't get me wrong, when you put the puck in the net, there is no feeling like that," Gomez said. "But when you set someone up and all he has to do is tap it in, that's where I get my enjoyment."
With Elias on one wing and Jeff Friesen on the other, Gomez being the center point of the Devils' offense might become more than just a passing phase.
Elias' presence demands the defense's attention, which could open scoring lanes for Friesen and allow the Devils' offense to break out and score more, something it hasn't done yet. The line practiced together Monday.
Friesen, though, said he would like to see Gomez start shooting more as well, to make the line a triple goal-scoring threat.
"I need to open things up for him [Elias] as well by using my speed," Friesen said. "I did that with Owen Nolan [in San Jose]. A lot of teams would key on him, and I would drive the middle and try to make a pick for him to open things up. Obviously, Elias is one of the best players in the game, so teams will key on him. I need to do my part to get them to key on me."
"If he shoots more, he'll find it will open more things up for him," Friesen said. "He's got a good shot, but you don't tell a great playmaker what to do. His game is not my game. He sees the game differently."
Gomez says he does shoot, and even jokes about getting a bad rap around the league. The only problem is that "the quality shots aren't always there," he said. "I need to get better quality shots because that will open things for the wingers."
Gomez set a Devils' rookie record with 51 assists in 1999-2000, and followed it with 49 assists in 2000-01 and 38 last season. By contrast, he's scored only 43 goals to go with his 140 career assists.
"He's such a great passer, and once things get rolling, he knows he's going to have big nights," Friesen said. "Great passers like that don't come along so often. He's going to make you score goals."
POWER OUTAGE: The Devils are 0-for-14 on power plays through the first two games, but coach Pat Burns said that performance coincides with the rest of the league's woes.
Twenty-one teams have scored on 20 percent or less of their power-play chances, and eight of them on less than 10 percent. The Devils, Boston (0-for-3), and Colorado (0-for-7) are the only teams without a power-play goal heading into Monday night. The Bruins and Avalanche had played just one game.
"I look around the league now, and maybe one or two teams will score, but overall the power play stinks," Burns said. "It will come around, but we have to be patient."