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|Does Dainius Zubrus figure in the Devils' plans for next season?
27 марта 2015 года. By Rich Chere | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
His offensive numbers do not look good. Dainius Zubrus knows that.
The Devils' veteran forward also understands that his critics point to his $3.1 million salary and expect him to score goals, even if his primary role in recents weeks has been as a checking winger designated to help shut down the top lines on opposing teams.
As the Devils near elimination, management is already looking ahead. So what should Zubrus expect for next season?
He has a full no-trade clause for the remaining year on his contract, but the Devils could make it uncomfortable for him if they did want to deal him in the offseason and he balked. That is the case with any player. So will there be a role for him on this team going forward?
"I don't know what the future holds," Zubrus told NJ Advance Media. "We've missed the playoffs a couple of seasons now. I know the last 10 games or so I've played against the top lines a lot with Patty (Elias) and Gio (Stephen Gionta). I think, for the most part, we've done pretty well. We've done a decent job shutting lines down and not being easy to play against.
"I like doing that. I enjoy playing against good players. Of course I would like to get more offense out of myself because the chances are there. But I still think I can play against top players and not be easy to play against."
"That's a question not for me. That question is for people who make those decisions," Zubrus said. "I'll get ready for these games and in the summertime I'll get ready for next season. My mindset is not going to change."
Zubrus, who will turn 37 in June, has heard all the criticism and jokes: He's got hands of cement. He can shut down opposing lines and his own line. He's the best player on the ice most nights, by his own account.
Many of the good-natured barbs were reinforced by Jaromir Jagr during his time with the Devils.
But Zubrus is a proven playoff player. He was the Devils' best forward in the 2009 playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes and he had a significant role in the team's run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. On a defense-first team like the Devils that looks for size and strength forwards, he fits the mold.
Then again, these are turbulent times for the Devils. They will miss the playoffs for the third straight season and fourth time in five years. Things need to change.
"When you start a new season you think you're going to make the playoffs and make a run," Zubrus said. "I don't think that will change next season at all. I don't ever start a season thinking, 'We've missed the last couple of years and it's probably going to be the same thing.' No way."
These final eight games, beginning Saturday night at PNC Arena Arena against the Hurricanes, will be difficult.
"It stinks to know that your season will be over, but I don't think about that. I take one game at a time and try to get up for it," Zubrus said. "I go through my routine and I honestly get excited for every game. I'll keep playing until someone tells us not to. I love what I do."
And he wants to be in New Jersey when the Devils get back into the playoffs.
"Yes. I don't want to go anywhere," he stressed. "I've enjoyed my years with this organization. Everybody has been real good to me and my family loves it, so I don't want to change anything."
Except the losing.