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If there's a season, veteran will play

WEST ORANGE, N.J. -- Scott Stevens has gotten over the
post-concussion problems that sidelined him since January and will
play for the New Jersey Devils if there is an NHL season.

Stevens, a 13-time All-Star who has played more NHL games than
any other defenseman, skated Friday for the third time this week at
the Devils' South Mountain training facility.

Other than sore feet and a few blisters, Stevens was happy to be
back on the ice with his teammates.

"That's the best part of the game," said Stevens, who smiled
frequently during his roughly 45-minute skate with fellow
defenseman Colin White and five other Devils. "That's the part you
miss most when you leave the game, being around the guys."

Stevens, who did not play after Jan. 7, feels he will be ready
for the start of his 23rd season if the Devils open Oct. 15 against
Toronto.

He still has to see Dr. Karen Johnston, a concussion expert in
Montreal, once more for a final examination.

While it was never determined what exactly caused his problem,
Stevens said he has felt fine since early summer.

However, the problem for Stevens and the rest of the players is
whether there will be a season. The current collective bargaining
agreement expires Wednesday, and the players association and owners
appear far apart in talks on a new agreement.

Stevens said the situation reminds him of the 1994-95 season,
when a lockout led to a shortened season that ended with the Devils
winning their first of three Stanley Cups.

"You think you learn from last time, but we didn't," Stevens
said. "The last time it came down to the last hour before things
were done, so that's where we are heading once again."