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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 5:50 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Sestito to make postseason debut for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils left wing Tim Sestito will make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut on Sunday on the fourth line when his team plays host to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal at Prudential Center.
 
Sestito will replace Ryan Carter in the lineup. The official announcement came via the Devils' Twitter account almost two hours prior to the opening faceoff. Carter was receiving treatment earlier on Sunday during the team's morning optional skate at Prudential Center.
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 12:01 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Two-game lead could be commanding for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have an opportunity to open a two-game lead in a playoff series for the first time in six years Sunday when they play host to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal at Prudential Center.
 
How significant is that? Well, since the franchise first qualified for the playoffs in 1988, the Devils have taken at least a two-game lead in a playoff series on 14 occasions and they've won every time.
 
Still, not since their 2006 Conference Quarterfinal sweep of the New York Rangers have the Devils enjoyed the luxury of leading a best-or-seven by at least two games. A victory on Sunday, however, will give New Jersey a 3-1 lead with a chance to close it out Tuesday in Philadelphia.
 
The last time the Devils lost the first game of a playoff series, as they did against the Flyers this series, and won the next three games was against Ottawa in the 2003 Conference Finals. New Jersey would win that best-of-seven in seven games before defeating Anaheim in the Stanley Cup Final in seven.
 
The Devils made final preparations for their Game 4 matchup with the Flyers Sunday morning during an optional skate at Prudential Center. All players were present with the exception of Petr Sykora, Dainius Zubrus, Ryan Carter, Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador and Marek Zidlicky.
 
"As I said in the Florida series, I really felt this would be a slow build for us through the playoffs and we would get better as we went like we did during the regular season," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "It's new for a lot of guys in the room despite the average age of the team and the great experience we have with a few guys. We've got a lot of young guys at key positions too so I think we're getting better and better like we did during the regular season and that's the key."
 
New Jersey is hoping to give their hometown fans something to remember on the day goalie Martin Brodeur celebrates his 40th birthday.
 
The Devils sport a 3-1 mark at Prudential Center in the playoffs. The only loss was a 4-3 setback to the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of the Conference Quarterfinal, in which the team blew a 3-0 lead.
 
"We really need the support [of the home crowd]; they gave us that all year long," Ilya Kovalchuk said. "Now, I think it's the most exciting time of the year and they give us a lot of extra jump that's for sure."
 
Devils coach Pete DeBoer said the atmosphere Thursday in New Jersey's 4-3 overtime victory was fantastic.
 
"It was electric," DeBoer said. "It's a great environment and it really gives us an extra lift. The guys, when the building gets going, it's a huge momentum builder for us. So, I know the guys are excited and they've been talking about it since the last game ended and I think can't get wait to get out there [Sunday]."
 
Devils captain Zach Parise considers it a compliment that several Flyers' players had publicly admitted their frustration in this series.
 
"It means we're doing something right, we're playing the right way, and we've been really good in our defensive zone and haven't given them a lot of room," Parise said. "With all the really good players they got over there, you have to limit their space and I think our defense has done a really good job of that and the forwards are doing a good job of backchecking, so if they're saying their frustrated, I guess that's a good compliment to us."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 11:48 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils' Sestito could make postseason debut Sunday

NEWARK, N.J. -- While there was no official announcement made by New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer following his team's optional skate Sunday morning at Prudential Center, there's a good possibility forward Tim Sestito will replace Ryan Carter on the fourth line for Game 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers in their Eastern Conference Semifinal.
 
Carter, who was apparently receiving treatment, did not skate on Sunday. There was no equipment at his locker stall following practice, and Sestito was moved beside usual fourth line center Stephen Gionta and right wing Steve Bernier.
 
"I think the chances of him playing look pretty good," Gionta said. "[Tim] brings a lot to the table, he's a hard worker, great forechecker. I played with him in Albany and he'd add a new dimension to the lineup [Sunday]."
 
If the 27-year-old Sestito is inserted into the lineup, he would be making his Stanley Cup playoff debut. In 18 regular-season games this season, Sestito had no points and a minus-5 rating. In 64 appearances with the Devils, he has three assists and a minus-12 rating.
 
The fourth line for the Devils during the playoffs has been incredibly productive. Carter, Gionta and Bernier have combined for five goals and 10 points in 10 games together.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for Game 4:

Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter/Tim Sestito - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 2:08 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Zidlicky a good fit for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- When New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello acquired defenseman Marek Zidlicky in February, no one could have imagined the positive impact he'd have in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Well, no one but Lamoriello and the Devils coaching staff.

"At the time we made the trade, we needed someone to come in and play top-two minutes, and those guys aren't easy to find," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "Not only that, but come in and run your power play too, so when you're making that list of guys you're looking for and the needs you're looking to fill at the trade deadline, there's only two or three guys in that category. So for Lou to be able to go out and get one like him, we wouldn't be here without Marek."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 1:49 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils unfazed by Flyers line changes

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils were back on the ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Saturday in preparation for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers, scheduled for Sunday at Prudential Center.
 

FLYERS VS. DEVILS

Kovalchuk stars in his return to lineup

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
After sitting out Game 2 with a lower-body injury, Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the Devils' lineup with a vengeance. READ MORE ›
As expected, Ilya Kovalchuk was on the ice and in a pretty jovial mood. Kovalchuk returned to the Devils lineup for Game 3 following a one-game absence (lower body) and notched a playoff career-high three points in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Flyers.
 
The Devils lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1.
 
Coach Pete DeBoer is expecting to see the best Philadelphia has to offer in the postseason. However, the fact the Flyers did a little line shuffling during practice on Saturday has no bearing on how his team will play.
 
"We're concentrating on our game," DeBoer told the media following a 50-minute practice. "Obviously, they have key guys that we need to be aware of when they're on the ice, but we really feel that if we play our game, we don't have to spend an over-extensive amount of time on what they're doing."
 
Kovalchuk agreed.
 
"It's normal when things don't go your way [to change lines] … we did the same thing," Kovalchuk said. "We don't really care what they're doing there. We know how to play against those guys and how to be successful. We just have to go out there and do our job; they have the same faces and it's not like they're bringing five new guys in from somewhere.
 
"It doesn't really matter who plays with whom, it just matters who wants it more."

In addition to Kovalchuk, who said he feels fine and is ready to go for Game 4, rookie defenseman Adam Larsson remained in good graces with head coach Pete DeBoer following another solid showing in Game 3. Larsson logged 20:32 of ice time on 33 shifts in Thursdays' win and also blocked one shot.
 
"I was a bit worried about [Thursday] night," DeBoer said. "You always play the first game back with a lot of adrenaline. We anticipated he wouldn't have any problem returning to the lineup [for Game 2 in Philadelphia], but sometimes the second game hits you a bit. He was out three weeks [as a healthy scratch] but he handled it well and there was no drop off. He played the type of game we needed him to play."
 
Meanwhile, Devils backup goalie Johan Hedberg was celebrating his 39th birthday on Saturday. Starter Martin Brodeur will be celebrating his 40th on Sunday in what he hopes will be a victory.
 
Brodeur has basically rewritten the regular-season record book for goalies by setting marks for career games (1,191), victories (656), shutouts (119) and minutes played (70,028). He also surpassed Hall of Famer Patrick Roy with his 24th career playoff shutout in Game 4 against the Florida Panthers in the conference quarterfinal round.
 
His 26-save 4-0 victory over the Panthers marked his first postseason goose egg since blanking Carolina 1-0 on April 23, 2009. It was his fourth since blanking Anaheim 3-0 in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final to give the Devils their third title in nine years.
 
Here were the line combinations during Saturday's practice:
 
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
 
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 4:06 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils players having a blast during postseason

NEWARK, N.J. -- If you never considered how infectious winning was to a locker room, all you needed to do was listen to the comments made from the two sides involved in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers.
 
The Devils scored a 4-3 overtime victory over the Flyers in Game 3 on Thursday to grab a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes Sunday at Prudential Center.
 
What does Flyers forward Scott Hartnell think?
 
"I think everyone's frustrated. I know me, personally, I'm frustrated," Hartnell said. "Whether it's losing a puck battle at the wrong time or whatever, it seems like it's almost contagious right now."
 
Meanwhile, farther north and over in Devils camp:
 
"It's been awesome," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We're having fun as a team and having a blast. We're excited for everyone when we score … we're having a blast and that's making us play better. We're enjoying being here."
 
Patrik Elias, who snapped a six-game goal-less drought in Thursday's victory, knows exactly what Parise is talking about.
 
"It's a looser locker room and, in a way, we have the right approach, we're mentally committed," Elias said. "We're taking some days off, but we're still mentally and physically [engaged]. We're having fun and enjoying it."
 
Forward Ilya Kovalchuk and goalie Martin Brodeur credit coach Pete DeBoer and his assistants for providing the perfect setting this season.
 
"It's a great atmosphere … the atmosphere in the room is unbelievable and we enjoy playing for each other and that's very important to be successful," Kovalchuk said. "We know we didn't win anything yet. But we've played the way we expected to play, and we have a long way to go.
 
"I think Pete and his coaching staff has been unbelievable. We have great communication between coaches and players and the door is always open. We communicate a lot and it's made a big difference, and we have a great mix of guys who are all really excited to be in this position."
 
Brodeur, who turns 40 on Sunday, said it's been a while since stability has really set in within the locker room. Of course, he's referring to the fact that since the 2004-05 work stoppage, DeBoer is New Jersey's seventh coach in seven seasons, with Jacques Lemaire and GM Lou Lamoriello each holding the position twice.
 
"We're trying to build something together and we're having a lot of fun," Brodeur said. "It's a little more relaxed as far as guys being around and doing the things we're doing. We're well-organized, and nothing is hidden. It's wide-open and constructive all the time, and that makes it a lot different than before when maybe there was a little more private side when things were going wrong."
 
Brodeur feels that's a direct reflection of the coaching staff.
 
"Everyone has a part in that, but definitely the coaching staff," he said. "I think they put us at ease and don't try to embarrass. There's no blame and everybody wants the best of everybody, and that line of communication has been tremendous.
 
"As long as I've been in this organization, it's as good as I've seen it."
 
While DeBoer is ecstatic to hear his players are having a blast, he realizes times are a little more stressful right now for the men behind the bench.
 
"That's the difference between a player and a coach," DeBoer said, laughing. "[The players] should be having fun. They shouldn't be thinking about anything other than showing up and executing and being ready to play their next game. When they have down time, they should enjoy their down time. It's a different mindset with [coaches]. That's why it's a lot more fun to be a player."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 11:58 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Projected Game 3 lineup for Flyers

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers held an optional morning skate Thursday in preparation for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Central (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
 
All players expected to be in the lineup Thursday stayed off the ice, including goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Coach Peter Laviolette also was not available.
 
The best-of-seven series is tied, 1-1.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for the game:
 
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
James van Riemsdyk - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood
 
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Matt Carle - Kimmo Timonen
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson
 
Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 11:41 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils say Kovalchuk a game-time decision

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk will be a game-time decision on Thursday when his team battles the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal round series at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
 
Kovalchuk was sidelined for Tuesday's Game 2 in Philadelphia -- a 4-1 Devils victory -- with a lower-body injury but was back on the ice Thursday morning during the team's practice. The Devils will host the Flyers at 7:30 p.m. ET.
 
"I just have to make sure I'm ready for the game … I feel really good," Kovalchuk told the media. "It will be a coaches' decision. I just have to prepare myself for the game and we'll see."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Brodeur ribs Clarkson for unorthodox goal celebration

NEWARK, N.J. -- It wasn't your typical goal celebration immediately after David Clarkson had given the New Jersey Devils the lead for good in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
 
And Devils goalie Martin Brodeur took notice.
 
"I always tell him he can't pass the puck, but he had six or seven assists already," Brodeur told the media following New Jersey's 4-1 victory on Tuesday. "I said, 'Maybe you're a passer now in the playoffs.'"
 
Clarkson established career highs in goals (30) and points (46) in 80 regular-season games with the Devils in 2011-12. Not until Game 2 against the Flyers did he finally notch the third playoff goal of his career and the first in three years. After pouncing on the rebound and driving a shot home 11:17 into the third, Clarkson leaped on top of the goal cage over Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and defenseman Nicklas Grossmann in delight.
 
"It's nice for him to go to the net and score one of his typical goals," Brodeur said. "Hard-nosed, jump-on-the-crossbar, and then hold it for a second for pictures. I was happy for him. He works hard. He's got the beard, too. He's proud of that."
 
When told of Brodeur's postgame comments, Clarkson laughed while peering over at Brodeur's stall in the club's locker room.
 
"I don't think anyone would score and have time to think about [posing for pictures]," Clarkson said. "He's giving me trouble every chance he can. Really, though, I was kind of shoved in from behind and Zach was behind the net celebrating after the goal so I starting celebrating, too. It was a good feeling to put that one in."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 2:54 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils' task figuring out how to sustain momentum

NEWARK, N.J. -- How difficult is it sustaining momentum from game to game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
 
It's not easy, but something the New Jersey Devils will try to continue on Thursday in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center.
 
"It can be hard, and that was a little bit of a challenge for us in the first series [against Florida]," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We'd have one great game and one game where we didn't follow it up. We talked about that [on Wednesday] and we have to try to be even better than we were last game because we have to expect them to have a great game, too."
 
The Flyers will no doubt be seething after being totally outplayed in their own building on Tuesday in a 4-1 loss in Game 2.
 
"We know Philly is going to come out ready to play, and, listening to their comments, they intend to fix issues they felt they didn't do a good enough job in for some areas," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "For us, we not only have to match our level from Tuesday, but find a way to raise it because they'll raise theirs. I know this will get a lot tougher and we'll have to be ready for it."
 
Speaking of preparation and getting ready, DeBoer admitted on Wednesday that he rarely has "fun" as a head coach in the thick of a playoff series.
 
"It's definitely stressful," DeBoer said. "I don't think you enjoy this when you're in the middle of it. You're getting ready for the next game, looking at film, trying to see what areas worked and what didn't. Where you need to improve … my history with any kind of good runs is you don't look back with any kind of enjoyment or appreciation until long after they're done."
 
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was asked if his team entered this best-of-seven series with the Flyers as the underdog.
 
"Games are played on the ice and not in the media or how people perceive the series to be," Brodeur said. "You have to go perform those 60 minutes, maybe more. So regardless what people are saying, we just have to put our head down and keep doing what we're told to do."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Quote of the Day

There was a lot of talk off the ice. From a player's standpoint, that's not the talk in the room. GMs make decisions, coaches make decisions, but as a team you have to come together and be ready to go, and we are.

— San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels on his team's approach entering training camp