Over eight months have passed since Brendan Shanahan's last NHL game. It's been much longer since he's played for the New Jersey Devils.
A former first-round pick of the Devils, Shanahan is expected to join New Jersey as it continues a season-high six-game road trip Friday night against the surging Columbus Blue Jackets.
Shanahan spent the previous two seasons with the New York Rangers and hoped to remain with them after becoming an unrestricted free agent. He grew tired of waiting for an offer, though, instead reaching a tentative agreement with New Jersey (25-15-3) last weekend before signing the deal Thursday.
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He hasn't played since the second round of last season's playoffs, which the Rangers reached after eliminating the Devils in five games. Both teams are currently battling with Philadelphia for the top spot in the competitive Atlantic Division.
Shanahan enters his 21st NHL season by returning to the team that made him the second overall selection in the 1987 draft. After four years with New Jersey, he signed with St. Louis then played for Hartford and Detroit - which he helped win three Stanley Cup championships - before joining New York.
In 1,490 games, the eight-time All-Star has collected 650 goals and 1,340 points to rank 11th and 24th, respectively, on the NHL's all-time lists.
"You can never have enough experience. He knows what it takes to win," said Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, who was in his first year at that position when Shanahan was a rookie.
Shanahan - a 20-goal scorer in each of his previous 19 seasons - finished with 23 goals and 46 points for the Rangers in 2007-08, though he was limited to 73 games due to a bothersome knee. However, he appears healthy enough to join New Jersey in Columbus - the fourth stop on the team's road swing.
"I've got a burning desire to get back and help and make an impact on my new team," said Shanahan, who has 13 goals and 29 points in 29 games against the Blue Jackets (21-18-4).
The Devils have won two of the first three contests on their trip. In Tuesday night's 5-3 victory over Vancouver, five players scored in support of Scott Clemmensen, who made 26 saves to snap a personal three-game losing streak.
New Jersey is 4-2-1 with a tie all-time against Columbus, going 2-2-1 at Nationwide Arena, where the Blue Jackets have won eight of their last nine. This is the teams' first meeting since the Devils won 1-0 at home on Oct. 28, 2006.
Columbus enters seeking to sweep a three-game homestand and improve to 8-1-1 versus Eastern Conference teams.
Against Colorado on Tuesday night, the Blue Jackets scored three times in a 2:25 span of the third period to pull out a 4-3 victory. Kristian Huselius had a goal and two assists, while R.J. Umberger had a goal and an assist for Columbus, which has won three straight despite playing without captain and leading scorer Rick Nash (lower-body injury).
"We are willing to do anything to win a hockey game, from a work standpoint. If it's not pretty, at least we're working," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "(Tuesday night) wasn't a masterpiece, but we worked and we stayed with it, we battled."
Columbus has won seven of its last nine behind rookie Steve Mason, who boasts a 1.45 goals-against average in those outings. Mason tops the NHL with a 1.80 GAA and six shutouts, and is among the league leaders with a .936 save percentage.