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He’s wearing the same number, dressing in almost the same locker stall, most of his teammates are the same and he’s even sliding into a lineup spot he’s familiar with.
No wonder Alexei Ponikarovsky had kind of a déjà vu feeling this morning when he arrived at Prudential Center to rejoin the Devils after being reacquired in a trade with Winnipeg Wednesday night.
“Everything kind of flashed back,” said Ponikarovsky, who has reclaimed the No. 12 he wore last season with the Devils. “I knew the team that I’m coming to play for and I know the system and everything and it was just that feeling that I never left when I got back. So, it’s all in the memories right now and the guys were pretty happy to see me and me the same way as well. So, it’s all good.”
Adding to that been-here-before feeling is that Ponikarovsky’s first game back with the Devils will be against the Philadelphia Flyers tonight. His first game as a Devil last season after being acquired in a trade with Carolina also was against the Flyers on Jan. 21, 2012 and he scored the lone goal in a 4-1 loss.
“It was Flyers too, so it’s kind of a coincidence,” he said. “I don’t know what you call it, but whoever we play doesn’t matter.”
Ponikarovsky, who signed with Winnipeg as an unrestricted free agent last summer, will play tonight on a line with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk. That trio also played together during the Devils’ Eastern Conference semifinal series against Philadelphia last season and Ponikarovsky scored the winning overtime goal in Game 3 of that series.
“We’ve obviously been experimenting with some different people there,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “I think he’s a complementary guy to those type of players – Travis and Kovy. He’s a big body, he can create room for them, he can skate with them and, hopefully, it works.”