NEWARK, N.J. --Johan Hedberg was the eager one. The backup goalie was the first Devil on the ice for the morning skate Wednesday.
He came on at 10:09 a.m. ET, and soon enough his teammates joined him. It's an optional skate for New Jersey, but of the players expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 against the Kings (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) only Marek Zidlicky is not skating.
JR: No. 1, they have to understand what they do very well and stop the Devils from playing their game, basically beat them at their own game. The Devils have an extremely good forecheck. They use their speed to get in on the defense, cause havoc, crate turnovers. The Kings have to make sure they really hold the gaps, hold the blue lines. They have to make sure the Devils dump the puck in and they have to get a lot of support from their centermen. One thing that will be really hard for them is the pressure. The Kings are going to get more pressure than they have all playoffs so far, and they have to make quick, good decisions with the puck. Obviously they have to have good goaltending, but first and foremost they have to make sure that they control the puck and possess the puck as much as they possibly can against a very good offensive team in the Devils.
NHL.com: What is the key to the Kings controlling the puck?
JR: Their game has been very good, very tight. Defensively they've been very good. But where they have been so much better against Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix is their ability to make good decisions with the puck. They move the puck, make the smart, easy decision. They are not forcing pucks. They are doing things very quickly, and when you do things quickly it frustrates the other team. The other team can work so hard on the forecheck, but when that puck is moved quick, accurately and smartly, you're going to beat the forecheck. The other team is going to exert a lot of energy, but not get anything done. I think that's what the Kings have to do, step that up just one more level, which you need to do in order to win in the Final.
NHL.com: What kind of pressure will it put on the Devils if they're able to do all that?
JR: It means the puck will be going the complete opposite way, and that's what the Kings have done so well. They're working together as units of five. It's not one or two guys working hard one shift. All five of them are working in unison. A team gets by one roadblock, and there is another one there. A team gets by that one, and there is another one there. Then if you get past the three walls, you've got a goaltender that has just been unbelievable.
NHL.com: Let's flip it, what do the Devils have to do to win Game 1?
JR: They have to outwork the Kings. The Kings, in my opinion, have been the hardest-working team in the playoffs so far. The Devils have to outwork them. They have to make sure they stay out of the penalty box, stay disciplined, but they have to continue their forecheck. Their forecheck has been so good. Their power play has to be very good, which will be tough because the Kings' penalty kill has been the best in the playoffs. But, all in all, they have to find a way to beat Jonathan Quick. They've got to get in his face.
NHL.com: The Canucks, Blues and Coyotes couldn't do that consistently. How can the Devils get in Quick's face?
JR: With Quick it's all second effort, secondary opportunities. The points have to shoot for deflections. They can't shoot to score because it's not too often that a defenseman is going to score from the blue line on a direct shot. They have to shoot for deflections and it's secondary. It's rebound to top shelf, rebound to top shelf. He covers the lower half of the net so well and he's so good laterally that it has to be a bang-bang play to get in the net, or it's not going to get there.
NHL.com: If the Devils can get to Quick, what kind of pressure does that put on the rest of the Kings?
JR: Well, the Kings haven't really been under duress at all in these playoffs. The Devils have. They've played a seven-game series. They've been down in series. They've been down in games. They've had to battle back. The Kings haven't had that. When you haven't had that deficit, that mentality or mind frame, that benefits the New Jersey Devils.
The notoriety is well deserved, but it's not something the so-called fourth-liners are all that caught up in.
"Hopefully what people are noticing is we're winning games and we're helping the team because that's really what it's about," Carter told NHL.com. "It's good. It's notoriety and it's positive for us as a group and us as a team. We're enjoying that."
Carter, though, said he's not so sure his group should be referred to as a fourth line. Sure, they are coach Peter DeBoer's fourth option and they get the least amount of ice time, but they don't play like your typical fourth line.
Instead of just going on the ice for an odd shift here and there to maybe make a few big hits and eat up some minutes to keep the top nine forwards rested, DeBoer has been using his fourth line to generate offense through the forecheck. Save for the skill and the ice time, the Devils' fourth line plays no different than the other three lines.
"I don't really know that we really reflect on how we look at ourselves, if it's a first line, fourth line, how we do it," Carter said. "We look at it as a shift-by-shift basis and how we play our game."
Carter, though, said the mindset of the fourth-liners has changed as the confidence DeBoer has shown in them has grown.
"We're not worried about who we are out there playing against or who we're not out there playing against," Carter said. "We just go out there and do our thing and that's probably why we're having success. Right now it's on us to go out there and just play our game."
A big key to how they play is Gionta, the 5-foot-7, 185-pound center who did not play in the regular season until the regular-season finale April 7, when he scored the game-winning goal. Gionta has three goals and three assists in 17 playoff games.
"He really opens the ice up for all of us," Carter said. "He's fast at both ends of the ice, so he creates pressure up the ice and if we turn it over in the offensive zone somehow, even if we're ahead of him, he seems to be the first one back and forcing them to make a dump or a play. It all sets up for Marty (Brodeur) to get it, and we're going back in the other direction. His speed is huge for us both ways."
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils will go for their third straight win and a berth in the Stanley Cup Final on Friday with the same lineup that was good enough to win Games 4 and 5. The lines will not change, either, as the Devils look to close out the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Devils are 2-0 in the playoffs when they have an opportunity to close out a team, having beaten the Panthers in Game 7 of the first round and the Flyers in Game 5 of the conference semifinals.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer changed his lines after the team failed to score a goal in Game 3, and his re-shuffling worked as they won 4-1 in Game 4. He stuck with it in Game 5 and it was good enough for a 5-3 win, even though the Devils felt they were outplayed for large portions of the game and were lucky to get out of Madison Square Garden with a win.
The Devils feel they got away with one Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. They'd rather not tempt fate Friday at Prudential Center when they host the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"We don't want to go back to Madison Square Garden [for a Game 7]," Patrik Elias said Thursday. "They play a little bit different hockey there. They feed off the crowd and the excitement there. We've got to play better than we did [in Game 5]."
New Jersey won Game 5 on Wednesday 5-3 to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, but the Devils can't shake the feeling that they stole a victory away from the Rangers, who controlled play and were able to be aggressive with puck possession for the middle 45-50 minutes.
The problem for the Rangers is New Jersey had a three-goal outburst in the first 10 minutes of the game, a result of a rebound, a deflection and a heavy wrister that most times would have been stopped by Vezina and Hart Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist. With the score tied 3-3 late in the third period, the aggressive Rangers had a defensive breakdown that led to Ryan Carter's winning goal with 4:24 remaining.
"I don't think there is one answer to that," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think it's a combination of things. When you have a 3-0 lead -- especially that early in the game -- you don't have that desperation that you have in a one-goal game and you change the way you're going to play. On the other side, the other team, and we've been there before, you loosen the strings. Your defensemen are up the ice, playing a little bit reckless, and a lot of times that puts the other team on their heels. The good news is I like the way we responded in the third period."
How do the Devils avoid having to respond that way again in the third period?
"Just play the same way that we know we can play," Elias said. "Be aggressive and dictate the tempo of the game. Try to out-work them, obviously."
Oh, and one more thing…
"Don't get too ahead of ourselves," Elias said. "Keep plugging away, doing the simple stuff and sticking with the game plan, and not worry about what is going to happen at the end of the night."
NEW YORK -- It wasn't quite worthy of being called a guarantee a la Mark Messier following Game 5 against New Jersey in 1994, but Rangers defenseman Marc Staal in his own quiet way did make an emphatic statement following the 5-3 loss in Game 5 Wednesday night.
"We'll regroup and get back and get the next one," Staal said in the somber home dressing room at Madison Square Garden.
Staal was then asked if the Rangers should have some hope going into Game 6, or if they should be crushed because they finally exerted their will and played the way they wanted to play against New Jersey and still could not come up with the victory.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Bryce Salvador used to be a sniper -- when he was 10 years old, that is.
"I know I lit it up," Salvador said.
It might be time to call him one again, because Salvador is lighting it up for the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Salvador got the Devils going in their 4-1 win against the Rangers on Monday with his third goal of the playoffs 8:10 into the first period. It was a low wrist shot from the left point that skipped on the ice just before going through Henrik Lundqvist's five-hole.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Wearing a neutral white shirt, showing no favoritism to the Rangers or the Devils, Eric LeGrand was just happy to have parked his motorized wheelchair in the area behind Section 17 at Prudential Center to catch some playoff hockey.
LeGrand, the former Rutgers University football player, became paralyzed on the field on Oct. 16, 2010. He is working hard in his recovery and in the meantime is, in his own words, "starting to become a die-hard hockey fan."
The New Jersey native has attended regular-season and playoff games at Madison Square Garden, but Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals was his first at Prudential Center.
"I am a Jersey guy, so I have to pull for the Devils a little bit," LeGrand told NHL.com as the Devils and Rangers went through pre-game warmups behind him. "But, you know, I just want to see a good game out here."
NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils coach Peter DeBoer had one word to describe the gamesmanship comments made by Rangers coach John Tortorella on Sunday.
"Comical," DeBoer said, without elaborating any further.
In defense of DeBoer saying Brandon Prust was "headhunting, plain and simple" when he hit Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov in the head with an elbow -- a play that earned Prust a disciplinary hearing Sunday morning with the NHL's Department of Player Safety -- Tortorella went off on a rant about how the Devils stay down on the ice to try to draw calls from the officials.
Tortorella specifically pointed out what he viewed as Dainius Zubrus elbowing Anton Stralman and Zach Parise "launching himself" at Michael Del Zotto. He also talked about the Devils using an illegal pick as a set play on the power play to stop the Rangers defensemen from blocking shots.
"There's some gamesmanship right there, huh?" Tortorella said.
The Devils don't know or understand what Tortorella is talking about, especially his remarks about staying down on the ice to draw penalties.
"I don't pay attention to that and I don't know of anyone in here that has done that, unless they're referring to Volchenkov, when he got elbowed in the head," Parise said. "I mean, I don't think anyone in here has done that. Maybe he saw something differently, but I don't think we've done that at all."
Zubrus couldn't even remember a hit on Stralman.
"I don't know what (Tortorella's) thought process is, what's he's thinking," Zubrus said. "The hit on Volchy got quite a bit of attention. Maybe they want to turn the attention away from that."
Asked if he heard from the League about an elbow on Stralman, Zubrus said no.
"I didn't know about any of this until you guys (the media) told me," he added.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils don't want to heap too much praise on Henrik Lundqvist, but as a four-time Vezina Trophy winner and a fan of the position, Martin Brodeur certainly admires what the Rangers goalie is doing.
"Oh yeah, he's impressive," Brodeur said after practice Sunday. "I think it's a combination of the way that the players are playing in front of him, him making the big saves, controlling his game. What can you say? He's been good. We expected that. He's not surprising anybody. I know he's not surprising me. I know he's that good. We just have to find a way.
"We found a way against (Jean-Sebastien) Giguere in '03. We'll find a way against him."
Brodeur is, of course, referring to the Devils finding a way to get the best of Giguere in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final. Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy, but the Devils won the Stanley Cup with a 3-0 win in Game 7 at the Meadowlands.
Lundqvist would be considered a Conn Smythe Trophy favorite if he gets past the Devils. He made 36 saves for the 3-0 win in Game 3 and afterward Devils coach Peter DeBoer gave him credit for being the difference.
"Let's face it, he's playing really well. He's played well all season, all playoffs," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "I think it's important for us to not overanalyze and keep shooting, not pass up opportunities. Just keep shooting. We're getting the chances and they will go in; we just can't allow ourselves to pass up opportunities. Again, it just comes down to us taking advantage of our plays."