SECAUCUS, N.J. -- He's always been tough and willing, but the book on Sean Brown throughout his NHL career has been that he's inconsistent and guilty of making the big mistake.
That, in the mind of the Edmonton Oilers, is what made him expendable a few seasons back before he was dealt to Boston for prospect Bobby Allen at the trade deadline in March '03.
Brown, 29, has landed on his feet quite nicely in New Jersey, winning a job in a crowded field of blueline candidates at training camp. He's been playing almost 18 minutes a night for Devils coach Larry Robinson.
"Right now, I have a bit of confidence and I'm playing well," Brown said. "I was happy with my camp. I thought I had a good camp, There was a lot of competition. I thought I deserved to be here."
Signed as a free agent by the Devils in July 2003, Brown wasn't even sure he'd have a job when camp began, but the likeable rearguard from Oshawa has kept mistakes to a minimum and has been rewarded with ice time. Scratched last night, Brown's tallied 1-10-11 with 21 penalty minutes and a minus-9 rating in 24 games.
"He's been good," Robinson said. "He came to the club this year not knowing if he had a spot on the team. He had to work hard. He was battling. He was physical. He's got pretty good skills. Consistency is his biggest enemy. He has to play every shift like it's his last for him to be at his best."
Brown, who played 269 of his 414 NHL games with the Oilers and married a girl from Drayton Valley, still keeps a home in Sherwood Park during the off-season.
Little big man
Diminutive winger Brian Gionta, who is listed as the smallest player in the NHL at five-foot-seven and 175 pounds, is putting up rather big numbers with the Devils.
Gionta, 26, who played at Boston College and was a rival of Oilers stopper Mike Morrison for three seasons at Maine, faced the Oilers with 18-13-31 in 29 games.
Gionta's been helped by the NHL's new rules cracking down on holding and obstruction, but he's a gritty little player who doesn't back down from traffic, and he showed some offence before the rule chances -- he scored 21 goals for the Devils in 2003-04.
"I think it's opened up for a lot of guys in the league. When you don't have a guy clutching and grabbing you in the slot or through the neutral zone, you get some extra speed."
Former Oiler Dan McGillis played last night, but he's been a healthy scratch in five of New Jersey's last six games and was left home on the Devils last road trip to Columbus.
That's fuelled speculation that the big blueliner is on the block and might be traded. If that's the case -- the Devils haven't said it is -- the Oilers might be willing to take a look.
GM Kevin Lowe voiced some interest in the 33-year-old McGillis, a veteran of 628 NHL games, before signing Chris Pronger.