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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 12:02 PM

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

Devils focus on pushing series with Panthers to seven

NEWARK, N.J. -- A season full of promise will hinge on how badly the New Jersey Devils want it on Tuesday when they host the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Prudential Center.
 
"I anticipate a strong effort from everybody … there's a lot of pride and character in that room, and I expect this to be our best game," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said Tuesday morning following his team's optional skate at Prudential Center.
 
"The message [Tuesday morning] was that we're not going to win this series [Tuesday night]," DeBoer said. "We have to win one game, and then both will be in the same position … that's the focus."
 
The Panthers own a 3-2 lead in this best-of-seven matchup in which all games were there for the taking at some point. Momentum, key mistakes and players rising to the occasion proved to be the difference for the victor in each of the first five contests.
 
"We're not done yet," Devils right wing Ilya Kovalchuk said. "We can win two in a row. We did it a lot this year. But they're a good team. They work hard. They do what they're best at. Like I said a lot of times, they're there for a reason, but if we want to win the series, we've got to take care of ourselves."
 
The Devils have put themselves in a situation where they need to win two straight playoff games in order to advance -- something they haven't accomplished since 2007 when they won three straight to take their quarterfinal-round matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games. While the Devils have gone 27 straight playoff games without experiencing two straight postseason wins, it isn't as if they haven't won consecutive contests this season.
 
New Jersey won two or more in a row on 13 different occasions during the season. They actually closed out their 82-game schedule with a season-high six straight victories.
 
"I'm sure I'll be nervous entering tonight," Parise said. "There's a lot on the line and I'm sure a lot of guys will be nervous, and that's OK, we'll be ready to play. I guess it's kind of pointless and adds a little more stress to think about two at a time. We can't win them both [Tuesday]. I think the last game was their best game and we weren't on top of ours. So, we have to be a lot better in areas that we were better at earlier in the series."
 
That recipe includes playing with more desperation and greater ferocity on the forecheck. It also means staying out of the penalty box, shooting more and collecting rebounds.
 
"I think all of us, we've got to shoot the puck more and we've got to create more traffic," Kovalchuk said.
 
For the record, the Devils have averaged 29 shots in five playoff games against the Panthers. The team averaged 27.5 shots in the regular season. Florida yielded 30.5 shots per game during the regular season.
 
"I think as a group we have to get more shots," DeBoer said. "You look at the stats [in Game 5] and I think our defensemen as a group had one shot [Mark Fayne]. That's not enough. I think we passed up some opportunities to shoot some pucks as a group too, not just the defense. It was across the board. You look at the goals scored around the League at this time of year and a lot of them are generated off shots and rebounds."
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 11:44 AM

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

Theodore not on ice for Panthers' morning skate

NEWARK, N.J. -- There is no sign of Florida Panthers goalie Jose Theodore on the ice during the team's morning skate on Tuesday in preparation for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Devils.
 
Additionally, defenseman Jason Garrison and forward Tomas Fleischmann are also not on the ice. Fleischmann missed practice prior to Game 4 at Prudential Center as well, but did start the game. Garrison will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury and will be replaced in the lineup by Tyson Strachan.
 
Theodore stopped 30 shots in Game 5 to lead the Panthers to a 3-0 victory that enabled the team to grab a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Scott Clemmensen and Jacob Markstrom were the goalies on the ice during Tuesday's practice.

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said that Theodore still could play Tuesday night.
 
"We decided to give Theo the morning off and see where he's at tonight," Dineen said. "He's a little bit tender right now so we'll evaluate as the day moves on see if he's ready to play tonight or not. We'll always try to lean toward the side of precaution if there is something that somebody is a little bit tender with. We felt we needed an extra backup and that's why you see Jake out there."
 
If Theodore can't go, former Devil Scott Clemmensen figures to make his second career playoff start for the Panthers. Clemmensen was called upon to start Game 4, stopping 23 of 27 shots in a 4-0 loss in Newark.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 1:28 PM

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

Brodeur: 'Scoring first would help' Devils in Game 6

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur feels getting that first goal of the game in a must-win situation might help alleviate some pressure.
 
Add in the fact the Devils were shut out in Game 5 on Saturday by the Florida Panthers, working for that opening goal could instill some needed confidence.
 
"Scoring first would help," Brodeur said. "I think just for the psyche of players and especially coming from a game where we didn't score. You just don't want to get their goalie in a rhythm again, so you try to get goals on him as quick as possible.
 
"But sometimes it might not happen and you just work through that."
 
The team scoring first in this best-of-seven series has gone on to win four of the five games so far. The only time the team scoring first couldn't hold the lead was Game 3 in Newark, when the Devils opened a 3-0 lead and ultimately lost, 4-3.
 
"It would be nice [scoring first], but I don't think we'll get off the ice and leave if we don't," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We'd love to get the crowd into the game early and make it a tough atmosphere for Florida to play in. If the game is zeroes, we're going to keep playing the same way, whether we're up or down two goals because, in this series, you have seen three-goal leads disappear quickly. If it doesn't happen, that's alright."
 
DeBoer said it certainly wouldn't create a sense of chaos on the bench if the Panthers struck first on Tuesday in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. The Panthers hold a 3-2 series edge.
 
"It's not necessarily important that we score first," DeBoer said. "We just have to play a solid game, that's what we have to do. If we're playing well, and they end up with the first goal, I'm not concerned about the outcome."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 1:17 PM

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

Devils' Sykora has hit a wall

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.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 1:12 PM

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

DeBoer expects Devils' best in must-win situation

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:
 
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 6:02 PM

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

Is this it for Brodeur and Parise in New Jersey?

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.
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:20 PM

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

Gionta proving to be a hit centering Devils' fourth line

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.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:08 PM

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

Henrique excited, honored by Calder nomination



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.
 
The League announced on Friday that Henrique, Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers were named finalists for the Calder. The winner will be announced in Las Vegas on June 20.
 
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.
 
Henrique was certainly up to the challenge.
 
Devils coach Pete DeBoer decided to insert the youngster between Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk and he would flourish.
 
"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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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 9:30 AM

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

Garrison absence proves pivotal for Panthers

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Florida Panthers were minus a key cog on defense against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday when Jason Garrison was listed as a late scratch for Game 4 at Prudential Center.
 
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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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 7:15 PM

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

Garrison late scratch for Panthers

NEWARK, N.J. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Jason Garrison will be sidelined for Game 4 of his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

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.
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Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff