Winger likely contracted illness while playing in Russia

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils are optimistic that left winger Patrik Elias will not have any lingering effects from a recent bout with hepatitis A.

"Our doctors have looked at all the information and believe that everything will be fine," Devils president Lou Lamoriello said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Elias, 29, is believed to have contracted the illness while playing in Russia during the NHL lockout. He lost 30 pounds and was hospitalized in the Czech Republic for almost a month.

Elias played for Znojemsti Excalibur Orli in the Czech Republic before signing with Magnitogorsk Metallurg to play with former Devils teammate Petr Sykora in the Russian League.

After a Feb. 27 game against Dynamo, Elias had permission to remain in Moscow when the team had the following day off. On March 1, he tried to fly to Magnitogorsk to rejoin the team but developed flu-like symptoms.

"I had a high fever for six or seven days while our team was on a road trip and I had to stay in my hotel bed. I couldn't eat or drink," Elias told The Star-Ledger of Newark. "They obviously didn't know what it was, so I came back and had a blood test. It took four days to get the results and it turned out to be hepatitis A."

It is not yet known whether Elias, if he does recover, would be ready if the NHL settled its labor dispute in time to open training camps in September.

"You never know how long it will take, but Patrik had a pretty serious case," Elias' agent, Todd Diamond, told the Star-Ledger. "It's possible he wouldn't be ready for camp. Basically, he can do nothing while they check the blood count.

"At first when he took short walks, he'd be winded. Slowly he's getting better. Until he has his strength back and he's the person he was before, obviously there is concern."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.