Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 10/27/11
Because nobody should ever, ever forget about this, NESN opened our eyes on Tuesday to Zdeno Chara in a nearly seven-foot-tall pink bunny suit. Alongside Chara who several of the kids at Childrens Hospital Boston thought was an alien was Brad Marchand (Prince Charming), Jordan Caron (a Crayola Crayon), and Adam McQuaid (Fred Flintstone) as depicted in several outstanding Halloween photos by Phil Pesce. And of course, wherever hockey players go, so goes good-natured chirping. "I don't know where they got a bunny suit that big," McQuaid said to NESN. "I questioned whether the kids would even know if it was a bunny or not. "Quaider showed off the guns a little bit," Marchand said of McQuaids sleeveless Fred Flintstone costume. "His are bigger than mine, so I let him do it." The community outreach orchestrated by the National Hockey League and its 30 teams has been united and well-executed to begin the year. Along with the Love for Lokomotiv fundraiser described in last weeks NHL Notebook and the Hockey Fights Cancer fundraising initiatives, the NHLs community involvement and partnerships are being operated with a high level of precision. Hockeys efforts to reveal the personality of its players through quotes and public relations events like the hospital visit, combined with viral images immediately consumed by an increasingly technologically savvy fan base are public relations efforts that give teams like the Bruins digital recognition as the images and quotes are shared online, as well as headway in their citys often crowded sports space. For more about the NHLs Hockey Fights Cancer fundraising efforts, click here. DIABOLICAL REBOUND? For the New Jersey Devils, 13 seasons had elapsed since the last time the team missed the playoffs prior to their 38-39-5 postseason-less campaign a season ago. In those 13 years, Devils PresidentGeneral Manager Lou Lamoriello maintained one of the leagues elite franchises that at one point won seven consecutive playoff series between 2000 and 2001 and Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003. Behind the bench, Peter DeBoer follows Jacques Lemaire, who came out of retirement when John MacLean was fired after winning just nine of the 2010-11 seasons first 33 games. Under DeBoer, who coached the Florida Panthers from 2008-11, the Devils have opened the season with a 4-2-1 record despite Martin Brodeurs absence from the lineup due to a shoulder injury incurred on October 13. Johan Hedberg has performed well in Brodeurs absence as the team attempts to build off of a 26-7-3 finish last season. The team is appearing to get an economical return from Petr Sykora, who begins his second stint with the club after signing a one-year, 650,000 contract and is making the most of his training camp invitation. He has four assists and a crisp 3 in seven games playing alongside former linemate Patrick Elias, and veteran Dainius Zubrus. Sykora was ill Tuesday fitting that his nickname is Sicky but still recorded two assists and a 3 rating in New Jerseys 3-0 road win over the Los Angeles Kings as part of a three-game Pacific Division jaunt that includes stops in Phoenix Thursday and Dallas Saturday. Heart and soul, Elias said of his longtime associate amongst the forward units of the Devils (from 1997-02) as well as Czech Olympic and World Cup teams. Elias also discussed the teams style of play when asked if Tuesdays performance was in the line of a vintage New Jersey effort. I dont know if its vintage, Elias said. I think the style is a little bit different. You see the guys jumping in, the d-men are more involved. Ive been here way too long, and weve been always responsible. There are forwards coming back and when you have that and you put that together for 60 minutes, you get rewarded a lot of the times. Dainius Zubrus has spent only a few games alongside Sykora and Elias, and already feels a connection and good communication. When you play with guys like Patty and Sicky, its sort of easy not easy to but its easier to read the guys and anticipate what is going to happen, Zubrus said. You talk on the bench, and you kind of understand each other. Youre on the same page. Once you have the puck, they can make some plays and they can read plays well and I thought we did a pretty good job in our own end. If theyre feeling the chemistry early on, it should be a good sign for Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, two of the Devils most skilled players and linemates along with right wing Nick Palmieri, who may spread thin the efforts of opposing teams shutdown lines. Parise has moved to center for his first extended look there in the NHL, allowing his and Kovalchuks attributes the ability to mesh. I thought they were good, DeBoer said of the Kovalchuk-Parise-Palmieri line. I thought Zach looked very good in the middle in his first game there since college. I thought he did a great job. He had good speed, they created a lot of chances, and it gave us some real good momentum. 10th game looms for underage rookies Its a stressful week for several underage NHL players selected in the 2010 and 2011 NHL Entry Drafts. At 18- and 19-years-old and coming out of junior hockey or Europe, theyre too young to play in the AHL and must be returned to their junior clubs should their teams decide not to keep them past their ninth game of the season, at which point the clock starts on their entry level contract and a year from their three-year deal is subtracted. Two players have already been re-assigned in advance of the 10-game deadline, as Winnipegs Mark Scheifele has been returned to the OHLs Barrie Colts after one goal in seven games, and Ottawas Mika Zibanejad, who was sent to Djurgarden of the Swedish Elite League after producing one assist in nine games, averaging 12:54 of ice time. 2011 first-overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has likely played himself into an Oilers sweater all year with five goals, eight points and a 4 rating in eight games, but that didnt stop Edmonton Head Coach Tom Renney from suggesting last week that the Oilers sit him for a game, just to see what the makeup of the team would look like without him. At a point-a-game pace, Nugent-Hopkins likely doesnt have to worry about heading south down the Queen Elizabeth II highway to re-join the WHLs Red Deer Rebels. Tampa Bay 19-year-old Brett Connolly, selected 6th overall in 2010, was recently informed by Lightning GM Steve Yzerman that hell be staying up with the big club. With two assists in nine games, Connolly is a 5 and has also drawn strong reviews about his added strength, boards work, and ability to drive to the net. He has been skating on the left wing alongside Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis in his introduction to the NHL. I think I understood this summer that I needed to get stronger and make a big lifestyle commitment to the game if I wanted to play at this level, Connolly said to Peter Pupello on the Lightnings website. I know I have a long way to go from that standpoint, but I feel good about where things are going. One player who has also shown strong, power forward-like fundamentals has been Anaheim 19-year-old Devante Smith-Pelly, who isnt amongst the top 30 in rookie scoring but has appealed to head coach Randy Carlyle because of his ability to work along the boards and draw penalties. It is because of his physical play and strong, grinding-like game that should be well suited for a fourth-line role, meaning he may be kept by Anaheim, even if the points dont necessarily come. For Philadelphias Sean Couturier (four points, 4 rating in nine games) and Colorados Gabriel Landeskgog (four goals, six points in nine games), there isnt much left to be proven at the junior level, and the two 18-year-old top-10 picks from the 2011 draft will likely remain in the NHL due to their early production. For others, as Scheifele found out recently, its back to riding the bus and eating Boston Pizza regularly. GAME OF THE WEEKEND San Jose Sharks (4-3-0) at Detroit Red Wings (5-2-0) Friday, October 28 7:30 pm, Eastern Time The San Jose Sharks will look to maintain a perfect record in their six-game road trip in Detroit on Friday as they begin a stretch of three-games-in-four-nights, featuring a Saturday tilt on Long Island followed by a Monday night affair in Madison Square Garden. Before they get there, theyll face a motivated Red Wings squad smarting from a 7-1 beat-down incurred at Washington last weekend and an embarrassing 4-1 loss in Columbus on Tuesday.
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