A few days later, he finds himself in first.
After reacquiring one of the key components to their lone Stanley Cup championship, the Dallas Stars hope to see Langenbrunner pay immediate dividends Sunday as they look to extend their road winning streak to seven against a Wild team seeking a fifth straight victory.
The 35-year-old Langenbrunner has been to the playoffs in 13 consecutive seasons, a streak that was certainly about to come to an end with the Devils, who have an NHL-worst 22 points.
But the last game of Langenbrunner's eight-plus years with the Devils came Tuesday against Minnesota, a 2-1 loss in New Jersey. Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk on Friday dealt a conditional third-round pick for the Devils captain and former teammate on the 1999 Stanley Cup-winning Stars.
Nieuwendyk was happy to give Dallas (24-13-5) a boost offensively - its 2.76-goals-per-game average is in the middle of the pack. Langenbrunner has four goals in 31 games, but is a four-time 20-goal scorer.
"We are thrilled to be able to bring him back to Dallas," Nieuwendyk said. "... We're halfway through the season and I think all of us are really happy where we're at. There is a good feeling in the locker room, a belief in the locker room. I think this move will strengthen that belief."
Langenbrunner is a free agent after the season, but was pleased to return to the team with which he played for from 1994-2002.
"I'm excited to come back to Dallas. I have a lot of great memories of playing in that organization, that city,'' said Langenbrunner, who is four games shy of 1,000 for his career. "I'm excited about where the team is headed and ready to come be a part of it.''
Langenbrunner arrived in time for Friday's game against the New York Rangers but didn't play, and Dallas could have used him. The Stars blew a 2-1 third-period lead and fell 3-2 in a shootout for their fifth straight loss at home.
"In the end, it's a pretty important point, but we had our hearts set and our minds set on getting this thing righted at home," coach Marc Crawford said. "It's five games now where we haven't won at home.''
The road has been a different story for the Pacific Division leaders. A win over the Wild (21-15-5) - Dallas has beaten them four straight times - would give the Stars their first seven-game road streak since Nov. 15-Dec. 15, 2001, the same season in which Langenbrunner was dealt.
It won't be easy. Minnesota has won four straight in the new year, with Saturday's 4-0 victory at Pittsburgh perhaps being the most impressive.
"We're playing so well, boxing out so I can see the puck, and when you can see those pucks, you can control rebounds so there's no second shots,'' said Jose Theodore, who's allowed two goals in his last three games, and is 4-0 in place of injured starter Niklas Backstrom. "Right now we're all in sync in our own zone, from the defense and the goalie to the forwards.''
With Backstrom set to undergo an MRI Monday or Tuesday on his injured left hip, the Wild recalled Anton Khudobin from the AHL to potentially start Sunday.
Giving Theodore a rest against the Stars might be a smart move. He's 2-4-2 with a 4.43 goals-against average in his last eight games versus Dallas.