Two former University of Maine linemates will be squaring off when the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, open their best-of-seven conference quarterfinal series against Carolina Thursday night in New Jersey.
Bob Corkum, who was traded to the Devils by Los Angeles, and Scott Pellerin, who was sent to the Hurricanes by the expansion Minnesota Wild, are looking forward to their series and renewing acquaintances.
“Corky was my center my freshman year [1988-89] and Guy Perron was the other winger,” said left winger Pellerin. “It’ll be really interesting. I’m glad he was able to go to a Stanley Cup contender. He’s so responsible in the way he plays. He plays hard and he takes key faceoffs. He’s a great fit for that team. He played real well against us in our game against him.”
Corkum said playing against Pellerin will be “an extra bonus.
“It’s nice to see Maine guys kicking around,” said Corkum. “We played [Boston Bruins defenseman Eric] Weinrich in our second-to-last game. It’s always fun to run into old Black Bears. Scott broke in with the Devils but didn’t get a lot of playing time until he went to St. Louis. He played very well there all the times I played against him in the Western Conference.”
The only other Black Bear involved in the playoffs is Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Garth Snow, whose lengthy absence due to a groin injury has probably cost him the starting spot to youngster Johan Hedberg for their series with Washington.
Hedberg is 7-1-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage while Snow wound up 14-15-4, 2.98, .900.
Pellerin has played in 19 games with the Hurricanes and had five assists. He had 11 goals and 28 assists in 58 games with the Wild.
Corkum had three goals and an assist in 17 games for New Jersey after amassing four goals and six assists in 58 games with L.A.
Both will be on checking lines.
Corkum has been moved to the right wing on a line centered by Sergei Nemchinov. He had previously been centering a line with Jim McKenzie on the left wing and Jay Pandolfo or Turner Stevenson on the right side.
Pellerin has been the left wing on a line with Tommy Westlund and a variety of right wingers including Rob DiMaio, Jeff O’Neill and Shane Willis.
“I’ve been happy with the way things have gone team-wise but, personally, I wish I had helped out more offensively,” said Pellerin. “But I’ve had different roles here.”
Pellerin was Minnesota’s leading scorer when he was traded and received a ton of ice time including power play and penalty killing.
Pellerin broke into the NHL with New Jersey and he still knows several of their players.
“There are some ties there. It’ll be kind of interesting,” said Pellerin.
Corkum has been satisfied with his performance in New Jersey and said it is a “real close-knit group” that has made him feel comfortable.
“I’ve done what they’ve asked me to do. They told me straight out that they didn’t care if I ever scored. There’s no pressure on me to score. My job is to keep the puck out of the net,” said Corkum.
Corkum may not dress for every game but “that doesn’t bother me when you look at the depth this team has.
“This is probably the best crack I’ll get at a Stanley Cup,” said Corkum, whose Devils won 20 of 21 games down the stretch.
Corkum isn’t taking Carolina lightly.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for them. They’re a real quick team and they have a lot of grit and leadership in players like Ron Francis, Pelly and Rod Brind’Amour to name a few. And O’Neill has had a great year,” said Corkum.
Pellerin knows what his Hurricanes are up against.
“They’re a great team. They’ll be a big challenge for us. Our plate will be full. We’re going to have to play really well to beat them,” said Pellerin.