NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils left wing Petr Sykora was certainly one of the surprise additions to the roster out of training camp this season.
He turned out to be a key cog in New Jersey's regular-season turnaround, connecting for 21 goals, 44 points and a plus-4 rating in 82 games. But Sykora has hit the proverbial wall through five playoff games as the only forward on the team not to produce a single point in his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers.
"Right now, I'm not really scoring but hopefully that will turn around and I'll put some points on the board," Sykora told NHL.com. "I just want to finish strong and go as far as possible and who knows, we may get pretty far."
The Devils will host the Panthers at Prudential Center Tuesday in Game 6 of a best-of-seven series they now trail, 3-2.
The 35-year-old Sykora split the entire 2010-11 campaign between HC Plzen in his native Czech Republic and Dynamo Minsk in the KHL before entering training camp with the Devils on a tryout basis last summer. He'd ultimately sign and earn a spot as third-line center, but his solid play would soon have him playing second-line wing with Dainius Zubrus and his old pal, Patrik Elias.
It was really the one line coach Pete DeBoer kept intact the entire regular season. Following Monday's practice, DeBoer was asked if he has expected more out of the Elias line in this series.
"No, I've been satisfied," he said. "It's gone in spurts and waves, and different guys have stepped up at different times. I think from an offensive point of view, we've gotten contributions from just about everyone up front at different points and that's all you could ask for."
Sykora has been grateful to be given another chance with the Devils.
"It's been a blast ... it's been a long time coming but you play with good players and you earn your ice time and everything kind of falls in place," Sykora said. "I'm fortunate to be playing with great players this year, mostly with Patty [Elias] and Zubby [Zurbus]. We've been clicking throughout the whole season and now we're in the playoffs, so it's been good."
Still, one could sense a bit of disappointment in Sykora's voice over his lack of production on offense in the opening-round series. After all, Sykora has reached the 20-goal mark in 11 of his 15 NHL seasons. He is seeking his first postseason goal since 2008, when he struck for six goals and nine points in 20 playoff games as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sykora would gladly trade goals for wins at this stage in the season, though. He feels the team just needs to get back to the determined effort it put forth in Game 4, when it scored a 4-0 victory.
"When the team is clicking and going the way you want to go, it's always easier to play," Sykora said. "I think it's way tougher when it's not going well. In Game 4, everything kind of clicked, the penalty-kill, power-play and five-on-five play. You can feel it on the bench when everything is clicking, the energy is better and everything kind of falls in place."
DeBoer knows it takes more than one player or one line to be successful this time in the season.
"We haven't been a one line team and have had different contributions from different guys at different points," DeBoer said. "I think the key over the last two games is to get multiple lines going on the same night, that's the key."
The Devils will need to be clicking on all cylinders Tuesday if they have any intention of extending their season.
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NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils hit the ice on Monday for the first time since their loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, skating hard and with a purpose at AmeriHealth Pavilion.
All the players were on the ice, including rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who has been a healthy scratch for 10 of the team's last 11 games, including the regular season. Coach Pete DeBoer had the usual line combinations intact as his team went through a brisk, businesslike, 40-minute workout in preparation for the Panthers. The coach also told the media not to expect any line adjustments for Game 6 on Tuesday, in which the Devils are facing elimination, down 3-2 in the series.
"I think we needed to ramp up our intensity [at practice]," DeBoer said. "It was one area we felt wasn't high enough last game, and that was part of the focus [Monday]. It was short and was a hard practice, and that's how we have to play [Tuesday] night."
Goalie Martin Brodeur, who will likely make his 176th straight playoff start on Tuesday, doesn't believe the extra day off will effect either team at this point in the series.
"If we don't win, we're not playing anymore," Brodeur said. "It's a tough situation to be in, but we have to embrace it."
DeBoer anticipates his team to be playing their best in a must-win situation.
"I expect we'll be very good," he said. "When our backs have been up against the wall at different points or the pressure has been on this season, we've responded in a positive fashion every time. That's what I expect.
"Pressure comes with playoffs. I don't think you have to say anything about it. The guys understand the situation they're in. They can count, and they know we've got to win."
Devils captain Zach Parise said there's pressure on everyone to contribute in a game of this magnitude, and he expects that to happen.
"We had a good skate, up-tempo practice," Parise said. "We did some things we needed to work on, and hopefully we'll be better. There's pressure on everyone … everyone has to have their best game. This isn't an individual sport and it never will be."
If the Devils are eliminated in either six or seven games, would Brodeur consider it one of his most disappointing playoff setbacks?
"I'll be honest, losing in the Stanley Cup Final [in 2001] was probably the hardest thing I ever went through and, then, losing to the Rangers in the conference final [in 1994] was probably the second hardest," Brodeur said. "When you're so far from the goal and you lose, it's hard at the moment, but I think you go over it but look at the team that had success and played you and realize what they were able to do. But when you're so close, and go through adversity and success, you're like one of the other 29 teams … you're not going to win the Stanley Cup. But it's worth giving it a shot. I was lucky to win three of them, and the upside is a lot better than the downside."
Here are the projected lineups for the Devils in Game 6:
NEWARK, N.J. -- It has come to that time of the hour where the New Jersey Devils might have to contemplate life without goalie Martin Brodeur and captain Zach Parise if the season does indeed come to a sudden halt on Tuesday at Prudential Center.
The Devils need to win the final two games of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Florida Panthers if they have any intention of extending their season in 2011-12.
At the same time, both Brodeur and Parise will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. While the chances of Brodeur signing with another team seem rather unlikely at his age, that will not be the case with Parise.
NEWARK, N.J. -- An obvious hole needed to be filled when center Jacob Josefson suffered a fractured wrist late in the season, altering the lineup plan for New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Looking back, DeBoer admits the one name that kept coming up as a more-than-capable replacement was 5-foot-7, 185-pound Stephen Gionta.
"He hadn't played center in probably a year, but came in and has seamlessly jumped into that spot and given us everything we could ask for … I can't say enough about him," DeBoer told the media following his team's 4-0 victory over Florida on Thursday in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
The Devils conducted an optional workout at Prudential Center on Friday before departing for Sunrise, Fla., for Game 5 on Saturday at BankAtlantic Center. The best-of-seven series is tied, 2-2.
"Stephen's been a great, great story," DeBoer continued. "Here's a kid who never even had a game all year with us, but has come in and given us a real spark. He's enthusiastic and dependable."
Strange, but it almost sounds like DeBoer is referring to the elder Gionta, Brian, who just happens to be the 33-year-old captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
"He has a lot of the same traits as his brother, and his brother has a history of rising to the occasion in the playoffs," DeBoer said. "I think Stephen is one of those types of guys."
Gionta, who was recalled from Albany on April 6 for the second time in three days, had six goals and 16 points in 56 games in the American Hockey League this season. The 28-year-old undrafted forward out of Boston College has been with the organization since the 2005-06 season. The move to bring him up is certainly paying off right now.
"I try to bring energy to the team when I get an opportunity," Gionta told NHL.com. "Hopefully, I can give the team quality minutes out there when I do get that opportunity."
As you might expect, Gionta, who averages 6:41 quality minutes each game in the playoffs, does communicate with big brother quite frequently.
"We stay in touch pretty good and we've talked quite a few times since the original call-up, so it's been nice and he's shown great support," Gionta said. "He just told me to go out, have fun and play my game and let the chips fall."
Right now, Gionta is playing a key role centering the club's fourth line alongside left wing Ryan Carter and right wing Steve Bernier.
"I don't know if I'm surprised [to see how well Gionta has played], but it's nice to see," Carter told NHL.com. "A guy enters a scenario where he's playing playoff games right off the bat, and having confidence. That says a lot about the guy, and he's enjoying it, too."
Through four games in this series, Gionta's line has produced three goals, five points, a plus-7 rating and 15 shots on goal. Gionta has also delivered six hits, including three crunching blows in Game 4 that generated plenty of excitement on the bench.
"I think we're finding success in not trying to do too much," Carter said. "We're trying to keep the puck behind their goal line, wear them down a little bit. We just want to make it difficult on them. Our game right now is making them go 200 feet and forcing them to battle."
"That fourth line has done a great job for us," DeBoer said. "They've chipped in a couple of goals and have generated momentum."
Gionta has played five games since his recall from Albany. He scored his first NHL goal in the season finale and has a goal and an assist in the playoffs being moved from wing to center.
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NEWARK, N.J. --New Jersey Devils rookie center Adam Henrique didn't appear too surprised when asked if he expected to be named one of three finalists for this year's Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year.
But he's certainly honored to be in the mix.
"I was excited," Henrique told the media following practice on Friday. "Obviously, it's a big honor to be nominated and be a part of the group, so it's something I'm very excited about and proud of."
Henrique remained off the ice on Friday, along with Ilya Kovalchuk, for some rest, but both will be in the lineup on Saturday when the Devils play the Florida Panthers in Game 5 at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
Henrique is actually the first Devil to be voted a Calder finalist since Scott Gomez won the award in 2000. Martin Brodeur also won it for the Devils in 1994.
"It's a great honor, the Calder is one of these trophies that's once in a lifetime, so for you to be part of the top rookies is special," Brodeur said. "He's had a heck of a season, and played like a veteran out there. He was responsible, being on the power-play, penalty-kill and in five-on-five situations while playing on the top line.
"Sometimes, when you play on teams expected to win, it's a little tougher, but to play as a rookie, he adjusted really well."
The 22-year-old Henrique, selected in the third round (No. 82) by the Devils in 2008, earned a full-time spot in the lineup this season after Jacob Josefson fractured his right clavicle on Oct. 21. The Devils were already without center Travis Zajac, who was coming off Achilles surgery in August, so the need for a quality center became of the utmost importance.
"I think things started to click when early while playing with Zach and Kovy," Henrique said. "Once we started playing well, it gave me extra confidence to be here and stick around. That was a big confidence boost for me.
"Due to the injuries, this was something I wanted to take advantage of and prove to the staff and everyone here that I could play and fit in with those guys. Once things started going, it carried through the year."
The Brantford, Ontario native finished first among all first-year players with 35 assists and third with 51 points in 74 games. He also tied for the League lead with four shorthanded goals. Henrique finished one point behind Landeskog (22 goals, 52 points) and Nugent-Hopkins (18 goals, 52 points) for the rookie scoring lead.
"It was a hard thing to do at his age," Parise said. "In your first year, there's pressure and sometimes it's tough to cope with when you go through those funks. He never really changed his game whether the points were coming or not, though, and that was key."
Henrique led all rookies with 501 faceoff wins on 1,026 draws (48.8 percent). He ranked 10th among rookie forwards with 83 hits, third with 57 blocked shots and second with 49 takeaways during the regular season.
"He worked the entire season to be in that group, and it's a special group of players he's mentioned with there and deservedly so," DeBoer said. "He's skilled and a good kid, but I think the biggest thing is he doesn't have an ego. He got sent back at first, coming out of training camp, and I've seen that effect that could have on a player -- some feel sorry for themselves. But because he has no ego, he got another chance very quickly and made the most of it."
After being selected by the Devils at the draft, Henrique spent two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Windsor Spitfires and one more with the American Hockey League's Albany Devils.
Despite the fact he doesn't have a goal through four games in the playoffs and has gone 11 straight games without a score, he remains positive.
"I think you got to chip in any way you can," Henrique said. "It's the playoffs, and we've had offensive contributions from the fourth-line guys and the top guys are producing offensively, so that's another area where I need to try to do more.
"At the same time, we have to take care of other aspects of the game like playing solid defensively. I thought, as a [third] line, we had our best game in Game 4. We skated well, were on the puck. If you're not scoring, you need to be doing other things to contribute to the win."
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According to Panthers coach Kevin Dineen, Garrison, who took part in the team's morning skate Thursday, had two lower-body issues and is listed as day-to-day. Garrison had missed five games during the regular-season (Feb. 12-23) with a lower-body injury.
"We not only missed Jason on the power-play … we missed him, period," Panthers forward Stephen Weiss said. "Not just on the power-play, but five-on-five and on the penalty kill, as well. He's a big part of our team."
The Panthers entered Game 4 with a power play clicking at 60-percent efficiency with Garrison in the lineup, connecting for six power-play goals on 10 chances in the first three games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. With the 6-foot-2, 218-pound defenseman sidelined Thursday, however, the Panthers went 0-for-6 with the man advantage.
Garrison, who set a franchise record for defensemen with 16 goals in the regular season, was replaced in the lineup by Keaton Ellerby, who played his first game since March 15.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Ellerby was forced to leave the game midway through the second period after New Jersey center Stephen Gionta checked him into the Devils bench where the open door meets the stanchion. It appeared as though Ellerby injured his left leg on the play.
Ellerby's status will be updated later Friday in Florida. The Panthers will host the Devils on Saturday in Game 5 at BankAtlantic Center (6:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN). The best-of-seven series is tied, 2-2.
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Garrison was a late scratch with what the team called a lower-body injury. He was replaced in the lineup by Keaton Ellerby, who will be making his playoff debut this season.
Garrison has been a lynchpin in the Panthers' lineup this season and, in particular, the playoffs. He has one goal and two points in three games against the Devils. Garrison scored his first playoff goal and totaled 20:15 of ice time in Florida's 4-3 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday.
NEWARK, N.J. --New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer did admit prior to the playoffs that rookie defenseman Adam Larsson could at some point receive an opportunity to crack the lineup.
It just hasn't happened in the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers. DeBoer told the media that his lineup will remain status quo for Thursday's Game 4 at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, TSN2, RDSI).
There was speculation among the media contingent following Game 3 that perhaps DeBoer would replace struggling defenseman Anton Volchenkov in the lineup. Volchenkov has a minus-2 rating in this series and has been on the ice for nine of Florida's 10 goals through three games.
DeBoer didn't seem close to entertaining any thoughts, however, of replacing his veteran defender in the lineup.
"You look at [Volchenkov's] situation, he's had some bad luck and bad timing," DeBoer said. "He's been on the ice for nine of their 10 goals. He's had a bad run and I feel for him. It's Murphy's Law … whatever can go wrong is going wrong for him right now, and he's got to battle through that.
"He's a guy who has risen in the past in playoffs in Ottawa, and he's battle-tested this time of year. We need him in the lineup."
Meanwhile, Larsson has been a regular at practices for New Jersey during the playoffs, but, dating back to the regular season, has been a healthy scratch in eight of the last nine games. In 65 games this season, Larsson has two goals, 18 points and a minus-7 rating. He notched one assist and a plus-1 rating in three regular-season appearances against the Panthers in 2011-12.
Larsson missed 10 games from Feb. 4-24 with a bruised lower back after taking a hit from Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban in a Feb. 2 game at Prudential Center. The talented Swede would produce just two assists and a minus-1 rating over the next 16 games before DeBoer opted to have him sit, watch and learn.
"The Larsson question isn't really a factor ... he's ready to play, and we know what he can do," DeBoer said. "He's a good player and he can help us, no doubt."
He did play in the team's 4-2 regular-season finale against the Ottawa Senators on April 7, earning 12:39 of ice time on 17 shifts.
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NEWARK, N.J. --Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen is set to earn the first playoff start of his career on Thursday when he faces his former team, the New Jersey Devils, in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Prudential Center.
While Panthers coach Kevin Dineen wouldn't commit to either Clemmensen or Jose Theodore following his team's morning skate at Prudential Center, Clemmensen did skate off the ice first. The first goalie off the ice at a game-day skate is usually the starter.
Getting the playoff nod in the state where it all began and against one of the greatest goalies in League history will certainly be a humbling experience for Clemmensen.
"I think there's always a little bit of nerves regardless of the situation," Clemmensen told reporters after practice. "I believe the crowd will be rocking tonight and you can always feel the atmosphere here, so if I'm the starter, I'll be ready for that as well.
"It's a building that I like playing in," he continued. "I like these fans. It's always a lot of fun. I don't care how loud they boo me … I love them."
Clemmensen stopped 19 shots in a spectacular relief stint as his team rallied from a 3-0 deficit to earn a 4-3 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday to grab a 2-1 series lead.
Florida coach Kevin Dineen, who wouldn't tip his hand as to which goalie would start, did praise Clemmensen for the quality work he provided the team down the stretch.
"For two months now, Clem has been an excellent goaltender, maybe one of the top guys in the League," Dineen said. "What he does have is a tremendous amount of respect from the coaching staff, from his teammates and I think from people that know him. You can tell just from the response from the people here in Jersey that he's a hard guy to dislike, and I think as a teammate that would fit his character."
In addition to subbing for Jose Theodore (three goals allowed on six shots) just 6:16 into the first period on Tuesday, Clemmensen's only other playoff appearance was in relief of Martin Brodeur in Game 1 of a 6-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals in Raleigh. He would play the final 6:53 of that game, turning aside all three shots he faced.
Not only is Clemmensen 5-0-0 against the Devils in his career, including Tuesday's win, but he has yet to allow a playoff goal in two relief stints totaling 60:37 of playing time.
Despite his lack of playoff experience in 10 NHL seasons, Dineen wasn't at all concerned.
"I have no doubt that he would play well," Dineen said. "Here's a guy who's been around a long time and has played with Marty Brodeur and Tomas Vokoun, and now Jose Theodore. A guy like [Panthers goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom] could learn a heck of a lot from a guy like Scott Clemmensen. It's nice having guys not only game ready, but extremely mature professional players. It's been a pleasure dealing with all the goalies this year."
Some have said he has an advantage over the Devils, a team he spent five seasons with from 2001-02 through 2006-07 as a backup to Brodeur.
Does he think so?
"Maybe. I do probably know a little bit more of their tendencies having played with them, but I don't think that's a huge difference-maker," Clemmensen said. "This time of year, everyone is fighting so hard that it just comes down to winning. I think my unbeaten record against the Devils is mostly coincidence.
"I don't think I prepare any differently playing against these guys, want to win any more or try any harder than I do against other teams. It's so hard to win in this League, I don't care who you're playing. You go over everything at pre-scout meetings anyway … it's not something I know and am keeping to myself."
Devils forward Zach Parise feels Clemmensen is an even better goalie now than when he played for New Jersey.
"I think technically, he is," Parise said. "He played great when he was with us, but I think he's technically a better goalie now. He plays well against us, too. We'll have to make life a little harder for him."
Brodeur also praised Clemmensen.
"He's a great guy, worked really hard and is a good goalie," Brodeur said. "When I got hurt [during the 2008-09 season], he came in and, even though he didn't start the season with us, got himself back here and did really well for us. He earned a nice contract in Florida and now he's taking advantage of that."
Here is the probable Game 3 lineup for the Panthers:
NEWARK, N.J. -- When New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur officially is announced as the starter Thursday in Game 4 of his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN), it will mark his 174th consecutive postseason start.
"I expect to play every game, all the time, especially in the playoffs," Brodeur said. "It might not happen the rest of my career, but right now until I don't play, I expect every day that I'm going to play. That's one thing with having your own confidence."
Following his team's practice at Prudential Center on Thursday morning, Brodeur was asked if the Devils are facing a bit of adversity trailing the series 2-1 entering Game 4.
"It is definitely adversity," he said. "After six minutes and taking that lead on Tuesday, we should have had a better result and now we face adversity and we'll have to deal with it. We have to erase what we did last game and get back at it.
"As a team, we have to pay attention to details and special teams and individual players have to be better. Our overall team effort needs to be at a higher standard."
For the record, there was little to no speculation within the Devils' locker room that Brodeur wouldn't get the nod for Game 4, despite being pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots in 22:18.
"It wasn't really a decision," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "This is a guy, he carried us the entire second half of the season here. He's been fantastic and it really wasn't a lot of thought put into that. I knew the moment I pulled him [in Game 3 Tuesday] that we would be going back in there [Thursday]."
When DeBoer pulled Brodeur just 2:18 into the second period, it marked the first time he had been yanked from a playoff game since allowing six goals on 35 shots in 53:07 in a 6-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
"For me, I know what I can do and what I can bring and I'll try my hardest all the time," Brodeur said. "I've played a long time in this League not to have doubts in my mind when I'm coming down to the end here."
DeBoer is confident Brodeur, who turns 40 May 6, will rebound to help the Devils even this best-of-seven series.
"Marty's been through everything," DeBoer said. "I think if you ask anyone how's Marty Brodeur going to respond to adversity, I think we all know the answer to that."
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