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Jay Pandolfo in the Boston Globe

November 5th, 2007

Pandolfo up to new tricks
Ex-Terrier turns into a scorer with Devils

By Kevin Paul Dupont | November 4, 2007 BOSTON GLOBE

The third goal, good for the first hat trick of Jay Pandolfo's career, wasn't made official until he and his Devils teammates already were in the dressing room celebrating their 6-1 triumph Wednesday night over the Lightning. By the time video review confirmed the goal, the arena lights were being dimmed and the 32-year-old winger from Burlington, Mass., was deprived of the delight of seeing the customary blizzard of caps cascading onto the ice at the new Prudential Center ice sheet in Newark.

"No, didn't save any of them," Pandolfo said the next day, asked if he at least saved one puck to commemorate the rite of passage. "But that's all right. I really haven't saved a lot of things over the years. As long as we win, that's all that's important."

Worth noting, too, of course, is that the ex-Boston University Terrier (Class of '96), already has a couple of Stanley Cup rings that he keeps tucked away neatly in a safety deposit box. What's three disks of vulcanized rubber compared with a couple of sizable chunks of gold festooned with dazzling diamonds?

For the record, the ever-understated Pandolfo had all of 84 goals in 663 career games headed into the weekend. On average, he pots one about every eight games. Three pops in one night? That's usually a couple of months' worth of work for the 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound winger.

Why the change in, shall we say, tempo? Some of it, said Pandolfo, is just the luck of one night, but it also underscores that rookie coach Brent Sutter has given all New Jersey forwards, including so-called checkers such as Pandolfo, a broader job description. It's OK to venture a little deeper into the offensive zone when in control of the puck.

"He wants us all to take more chances offensively," said Pandolfo, whom the Devils made the 32d pick overall in the 1993 draft. "He stills wants us out there to do the job defensively, obviously, but he also wants us to take advantage of offensive situations when we see them. The last seven, eight years, it's pretty much been me and [John] Madden always up against other team's top lines, and to be honest, we've been more concerned about stopping what they did rather than scoring ourselves."

But the Devils, like most clubs in the offensively challenged NHL, are looking for new ways to get it in the net. Right now it looks as though Sutter, the ex-Islander, may have struck it rich by putting newcomer Dainius Zubrus on a line with Pandolfo and the ever-grinding Madden. In the five-goal thumping of the Bolts, the trio collected 10 points, four apiece from Pandolfo (3-1 -4) and Madden (1-3 -4) and a couple of Zubrus helpers.

Zubrus, who played last year with Washington and Buffalo, was added as a free agent in the offseason, signed in part because the Rangers signed Scott Gomez off the Devils roster. At 6-5, 225, Zubrus is a bit atypical for a grinding, checking line, which is usually the domain of the standard-cut 5-11, 190-pound buzzsaw (we give you Madden as Exhibit A).

"I really don't have any regrets or complaints," said Pandolfo, asked if playing with the offensive "mute" button pressed down has been frustrating over the course of his 10-plus NHL seasons. "Because, hey, it's not like anyone ever told me not to score, either, you know? But, sure, it's more fun to score, obviously. I think everyone feels that way."

Already with a half-dozen goals this season, Pandolfo is on a pace to shatter the career high of 14 he potted in 1998-99. In fact, following the win over the Bolts, his six goals led New Jersey and had him on a pace for about 45. On the books for an economical $836,000, he would be in for a hat trick-like bonanza at the bargaining table if he were to carry 40 or more goals into unrestricted free agency July 1.

"Not even thinking about that right now," he said.

Pandolfo and his wife return to Boston every offseason, and this year they rented an apartment on Beacon Street for the summer. Not much has changed since his BU days, in terms of how he prepares for the next season. He still trains under the eye of Mike Boyle, who was the strength and conditioning coach when Pandolfo was a Terrier, and late in the summer, he joins a bunch of other NHLers in informal skating sessions at the BU campus.

As for the two Cup rings, the first won with Larry Robinson as coach, the second with Pat Burns behind the dasher, he rarely takes them out for a look.

"No, never wear 'em, just too big," said Pandolfo. "They're kind of clunky. Maybe when I'm older, but not now."

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