Old guys rule for Devils

Old guys rule for Devils
December 21, 2013, 3:30 pm
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Dec 18, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Jaromir Jagr (68) and goalie Martin Brodeur (30) celebrate the Devils 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators at the Prudential Center.

(Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

Together they are a combined 154 years old and have played more than 4,900 games in the NHL.

And by all indications, they’re not done yet.

Even at their advanced ages, Jaromir Jagr, 41, Martin Brodeur, 41, Patrick Elias, 37 and Dainius Zubrus, 35, are the straws that stir the New Jersey Devils, who make their first visit to VerizonCenter tonight [7 p.m., CSN].

All four veterans have either played with or played for Capitals coach Adam Oates.

“Why they’re still playing is they’re in fantastic shape,” said Oates, who retired as a player at the age of 41. “I’m not surprised. Anybody who plays that long is a good player. The fact they can stay motivated that long is a big thing.”

[RELATED: Neuvirth wonders what his future holds]

Jagr, who played with Oates in Washington in 2001-02 and has 1,427 NHL games under his belt, has made good on the one-year, $2 million investment the Devils made in him over the summer. In 36 games he leads the Devils in goals [12], assists [18] and points [30] and is averaging more than 19 minutes a game.

“What Jagr’s done is great, just great,” Oates said. “I played with him here and it looks like he’s reinvented himself a little bit. Good for him. He still loves the game.”

Elias [1,118 games] has two more years remaining on a contract that pays him $5.5 million a season and he’s second on the Devils with 22 points in 28 games.

Oates said he gained an appreciation for Elias when he served as an assistant coach of the Devils for two seasons before getting the job in D.C.

“I watched Patty for two years and he’s in incredible shape,” Oates said. “Great hockey player, smart.”

Oates played parts of two seasons with Zubrus when both were members of the Capitals in 2000-01 and 2001-02, and coached him two more seasons in Jersey.

Zubrus has played in 1,123 NHL games and has two years at $3.1 million each remaining on his contract with the Devils. He ranks third on the club in scoring with 17 points [7 goals, 10 assists] in 36 games.

And then there’s Brodeur, who is in the final year of a contract that pays him $4.5 million. For the first time in his NHL career, Brodeur is slowly being weened from the nets he has guarded so well for so long.

He’s played in 20 of the Devils’ 36 games this season, posting a 10-8-2 record with a 2.30 GAA and .906 save percentage. Overall, Brodeur has an NHL record of 679-388-150 with 124 shutouts.

Eventually, Brodeur will likely hand the goaltending reins to Cory Schneider, but it’s anyone’s guess when that will happen.

[MORE: What should Caps do with red-hot Grubauer?]

“Marty still loves the game and wants the puck every night,” Oates said.

Brodeur will be in goal for the Devils tonight, facing players who grew up playing him only on video games. To put it in perspective, caps 19-year-old rookie Tom Wilson wasn’t even born when Brodeur played his first NHL game.

“I’ve had those guys in my hockey pools ever since I was growing up,” said Joel Ward, one of the Caps’ oldest players at 33. “It’s pretty cool to see, guys you grow up watching and you get a chance to play against them. It’s a pretty neat feeling for a lot of guys actually.”