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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 2:38 PM

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

Parise doesn't expect repeat of MSG brawl

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise was reminded on Sunday of the brawl that took place at Madison Square Garden back in March against the New York Rangers in the finale of their season series.
 
There wasn't a player in the locker room that didn't.
 
Just three seconds after the opening faceoff, New Jersey's Cam Janssen, Eric Boulton and Ryan Carter of the Devils were each given five minutes for fighting and defenseman Bryce Salvador a 10-minute misconduct as a third-man in.
 
For the Rangers, Mike Rupp, Stu Bickel and Brandon Prust were given fighting majors. Salvador's misconduct came when he interjected in the Carter-Bickel battle at which time Carter was cut and bleeding on the ice.
 
Parise said he doesn't expect that to happen at any stage of their upcoming series against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals that begins Monday in Manhattan.
 
"The intensity will be there between the teams, but, in the playoffs, you don't see line brawls like that too often or fighting, period," Parise said. "That doesn't mean the rivalry isn't there. We have to play whistle-to-whistle. As far as the fights go, I could be wrong, but you just don't see those very often in the playoffs."
 
Devils wing David Clarkson expects a good, hard-fought series.
 
"I think it is a big rivalry, that's no secret," Clarkson said. "Over the years, it's become heated at times, but at the end of the day, you've got to win and put some things on the side … play disciplined. And that's what we intend to do."
 
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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 2:32 PM

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

Devils' Gionta plenty familiar with rivalry

NEWARK, N.J. -- While New Jersey Devils forward Stephen Gionta will be experiencing his first playoff series against the New York Rangers, he certainly is no stranger to the rivalry.
 
Gionta's brother, Brian, spent seven seasons in New Jersey and played a key role in the team's only playoff series triumph over the Rangers in 2006 during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The elder Gionta, who is now captain for the Montreal Canadiens, scored two game-winning goals during a four-game sweep of New York that year.
 
"I don't remember that series, but I know about the Rangers' rivalry and look forward to [Monday's] game," Gionta told NHL.com. "I haven't talked to [Brian] since [Sunday's] game, but I'm sure I'll talk to him [Monday]. It's a divisional opponent, so it should make for a fun series."
 
The Devils outscored the Rangers, 17-4, in their four-game annihilation of the Rangers that spring. Stephen Gionta, who was signed by the Devils as a free agent in August, 2010, was 23-years-old at the time.
 
Gionta, who has played a key role on the team's fourth line in the opening two series, said remaining disciplined will be a key against the Rangers.
 
"You always have to keep your emotions in check and we don't want to get into that same type of game that Philly likes to play," Gionta said. "We have to stay disciplined because they can hurt you on the power play. If we find ourselves in that position, it could turn out to be a problem."
 
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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 2:28 PM

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

Devils ready for Game 1 against Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- For the first time in five days, the New Jersey Devils began practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Sunday afternoon with the benefit of full disclosure.
 
In order to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in eight seasons, New Jersey will have to eliminate the rival New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals slated to begin Monday with Game 1 at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
 
"We know where we're at and what's at stake," Devils forward Patrik Elias said. "We've had our share of disappointments in the past, missing the playoffs last season, but, for me, it's been a while to be in this position. We're focused, loose and enjoying the moment. You have to have a special group to get this far and I believe we have that here."
 
The Rangers have won four of the previous five playoff series between the teams -- New Jersey earned a four-game sweep in the conference quarterfinals in 2006. The only other time the teams met in the conference finals was 1994, when Stephane Matteau's goal in the second overtime of Game 7 against Martin Brodeur gave the Rangers the victory.
 
"The key against the Rangers is getting pucks by [Henrik] Lundqvist … they're a very defensive team," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "They pressure you all over the ice but they do break down from time to time and he's there to bail them out. So we've got to get some pucks by him."
 
The Rangers are a much different type of opponent than the Devils have already faced in the playoffs. The offenses for the Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers looked to finesse their way into the offensive zone and that played right into New Jersey's hands, particularly against the Flyers in the conference semifinals.
 
The Rangers have proven to be quite the defensive juggernaut in these playoffs, allowing just 1.86 goals-per game in 14 matches. They've also allowed 28.4 shots-per game; New Jersey has yielded 27.4 shots over 12 playoff contests.
 
The biggest discrepancy between the clubs is the offensive firepower displayed in the playoffs. The Devils have averaged three goals per game and the Rangers are hitting at a 2.07 goals-per game clip.
 
When playing five-aside, no team in the playoffs has scored more goals than the Devils (24). The Rangers have connected for 19 goals playing 5-on-5.
 
"Playing five-aside is our strength and it's been that way through both [previous] series," Parise said. "It's going to be important when we get possession of the puck in the zone, to not throw it away or necessarily look for a play right away, because they come back and collapse pretty low and put five guys right in front of the net.
 
"They're waiting for you to turn it over so they can jump up into the rush," Parise continued. "For us, we have to protect the puck well in the offensive zone."

The Rangers, meanwhile, are tops among the four remaining playoff teams in blocked shots (267); the Devils have 131.
 
"I think it's a matter of our defense getting shots off quickly," Parise said. "I think when you find you wind up for those big slappers, that gives them time to get into the lane and block shots. If they can get the shots off quickly, their forwards play pretty low, so getting them off quickly will benefit us. Get it past the first guy and giving our forwards a way to get the puck back if it's not going to get on net.
 
"I don't think it changes our game plan or mentality though. A lot of teams block shots nowadays and you just have to find ways through it."
 
Here were the line combinations during Devils practice on Sunday:
 
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Extras: Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Extras: Matt Taormina - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 2:44 PM

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

Kovalchuk not worried about next oppnenet yet

NEWARK, N.J. -- It makes no difference to New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk who the next opponent will be in the Eastern Conference Finals beginning on Monday.
 
Still, a series against the Washington Capitals and fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin would make for a pretty neat storyline.
 
"It would be nice … the first time ever [that both players meet in the playoffs]," Kovalchuk told the media after practice on Saturday. "He's one of the best players in the League and it's nice to play against those guys, but that's something we'll talk about [on Sunday] if it even happens."
 
Kovalchuk said it wouldn't motivate him even more to face Ovechkin in the next round.
 
"You don't need anything else … you're in the conference finals," Kovalchuk said. "I'm sure everybody will be pumped up and ready to go. It doesn't matter. For sure, it'll be nice. We're both Russian and the same age. I think if they win, that'll be their first time in conference finals so I'm pretty sure it'll be special for both of us."
 
For the record, Kovalchuk turned 29 years old on April 15; Ovechkin is 26.
 
Kovalchuk wasn't too concerned when asked his opinion on Ovechkin's limited ice time in the postseason. The Capitals captain has averaged 19:46 on the ice in 13 postseason games.
 
"That's their business and their problems," Kovalchuk said. "I'm pretty sure they're winning and that's all that matters at the end of the day."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer said everyone's ice time is limited this time in the season.
 
"Coaches are playing four lines a game, and I think this time of year, almost everyone's minutes are down a little bit," DeBoer said. "Ovi's are down more significantly, but they have enough depth with that type of player there, with [Nicklas] Backstrom and [Alexander] Semin where they can do that."
 
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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 2:37 PM

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

DeBoer happy for his Devils to rest

NEWARK, N.J. -- There's never too much rest for the weary.
 
After going the distance against the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he wouldn't trade places with anybody to be playing another Game 7.
 
"For me, the longer the better," DeBoer said.
 
After needing just five games to dispose of the Philadelphia Flyers in the Conference Semifinals, DeBoer's team is now four days into a five-day break before kicking off Game 1 of the conference finals on Monday. The Devils will play the winner of a Game 7 on Saturday between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.
 
Is the five-day break too much?
 
"Like I've said all along, I don't think there's such a thing as too much rest this time of year," DeBoer said. "We have to stay sharp. That's our job to manage the schedule and the days off, so that we're ready to go Game 1. That's on the coaching staff to manage it properly, but I wouldn't want to trade spots with somebody playing Game 7 right now."
 
DeBoer has been on a regular routine during the playoffs this spring. He has provided the club with the necessary time off and has had them skate hard as well. It has certainly worked wonders. DeBoer worked his team through two practice sessions on Saturday at AmeriHealth Pavilion.
 
"The guys are excited and we got through a good practice [on Saturday] and we worked on a lot of stuff," DeBoer said. "Again it's managing the five days off and making sure we build and are ready for Monday.
 
"I think all year we've tried to make sure we've had a good ration of rest and practice," he continued. "My feeling is if we practice, we practice hard. If we don't need to practice, you should be resting both mentally and physically away from the rink. I think the guys have enjoyed that part of it and we came back [Saturday] in a good frame of mind after having [Friday] off."
 
The second session was dedicated primarily to specialty teams. The Devils first power-play unit had Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias up front and Ilya Kovalchuk and Marek Zidlicky on the points. The second unit had forwards Petr Sykora, Adam Henrique and David Clarkson with defensemen Andy Greene and Mark Fayne.
 
DeBoer said that whichever team he faces next, the challenge will be a little different than against the Panthers and Flyers.
 
"Both the Rangers and Capitals play a different style than the first two teams we faced in the playoffs," DeBoer said. "I don't think it's any tougher and I don't think easier. I just think it's a different style of play you're dealing with, but we've made the appropriate adjustments for that."
 
DeBoer said the minute he learns of his next opponent on Saturday, he'll reach out to his video coaches "as soon as the game ends."
 
DeBoer was asked if his wife would offer any advice regarding his next opponent on Mother's Day?
 
"No. She will steer clear," he said, laughing.
 
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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 12:44 PM

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

Zidlicky, Volchenkov return to practice for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov were both a welcome sight at New Jersey Devils practice here at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Saturday.
 
Both players had been off the ice since the team's Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. According to the team, each player was "resting" after being shaken up in the series-clinching win.
 
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told the media on Wednesday that Zidlicky was "day-to-day" with an unspecified injury he sustained in the second period of Game 5 against the Flyers on Tuesday.
 
Zidlicky, who was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 24, was shaken up 8:14 into the second after taking a crunching hit from Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds in the left-wing corner. He did return to the game and played four more shifts but sat out the entire third period.
 
Volchenkov took a hard hit from Zac Rinaldo in the opening period and, despite taking several minutes before returning the bench, was able to finish the game.
 
Right wing Dainius Zubrus, who practiced with the team on Thursday, was also skating hard on Saturday. The veteran forward sustained a charley horse on a hit from Rinaldo in the second period on Tuesday.
 
Devils coach Peter DeBoer conducted a double session on Saturday in preparation for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday.
 
The Devils will either play host to the Washington Capitals at Prudential Center or visit Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers. New Jersey's opponent will be determined on Saturday when the Capitals and Rangers play in Game 7 in Manhattan.
 
Here were the line combinations during the first session of Devils practice on Saturday:
 
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen.
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Matt Taormina - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 12:22 PM

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

Devils get Carter back after one-game absence

PHILADELPHIA -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer confirmed on Tuesday that fourth-line forward Ryan Carter will return to the lineup for Game 5 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Wells Fargo Center.
 
Carter was forced to sit out Sunday's 4-2 victory in Game 4 after suffering a case of food poisoning the previous night.
 
"It was a food-born illness," Carter said. "After practice [on Saturday], I went home to eat and had some dinner and lunch -- one of those two meals was the culprit. I'm much better now and I'm good to go."
 
Devils captain Zach Parise feels having Carter back in the lineup is a plus. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound left wing has one goal, three points, a plus-2 rating and 14 hits in 10 games.
 
"I think he's been playing really well for us," Parise said. "That fourth line has done a great job of putting pressure on their defense, and even chipping in with some goals, so it's good to get him back."
 
Carter will take his usual spot on the fourth line alongside center Stephen Gionta and right wing Steve Bernier, a line that has combined for five goals and 10 points in 10 playoff games together.
 
Carter said watching the game on television on Sunday turned out to be a pretty enlightening experience.
 
"You get a much different perspective than playing during the game," Carter said. "The crowd was really into the game [at Prudential Center] and I think that helped with our momentum. I also learned the importance of wearing them down and working hard on the forecheck."
 
Here are the probable line combinations for Game 5:
 
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 Monday, 05.07.2012 / 3:34 PM

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

DeBoer: 'We want to end this as soon as we can'

NEWARK, N.J. -- As has been the case after every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring, New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer kept his team off the ice during the following off-day as preparations began for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
 
A win on Tuesday will enable the Devils, who hold a 3-1 series lead over the Philadelphia Flyers, to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in eight seasons.
 
"We want to end this as soon as we can," DeBoer told the media at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Monday afternoon. "We know they're going to play their best game. I'm confident we're going to bring our best game. They're a dangerous team at any point in the series, and this one is always the toughest to win. I like how we're playing so we have to continue to do what we've been doing."
 
The one-game suspension given to Flyers forward Claude Giroux for his illegal hit to the head on Dainuis Zubrus in Game 4 was announced after DeBoer spoke to the media. But he was asked if Giroux's absence would make a difference, one way or another.
 
"If he doesn't play, teams in that situation have a tendency to rise to the occasion," DeBoer said. The Devils were without Ilya Kovalchuk (lower body) for Game 2 in Philadelphia and came away with a series-tying 4-1 victory.
 
Meanwhile, forwards Dainuis Zubrus, who was on the receiving end of Giroux's hit late in the second period, and fourth-line wing Ryan Carter, who was sidelined for Game 4 with a stomach virus, are both expected in the lineup for Game 5.
 
The two-game series lead also holds some added significance as the Devils have never lost a playoff in which they've opened a two-game lead at any point -- they are 14-0. 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.
 
DeBoer said his team would like to continue doing the things in Game 5 that have frustrated the Flyers to a point where they seemingly have no answers.
 
"I think coming into this series we saw what they did to Pittsburgh and wanted to make sure that didn't happen to us," DeBoer said. "We knew that composure and discipline were going to be at a premium for us. When we got our heads wrapped around the fact that we're going to have to walk away from those types of situations and take a punch in the head at different points and not retaliate, I think everything else fell in place."
 
DeBoer also said that the experience his team gained in their seven-game series victory against the Florida Panthers in the conference quarterfinal round has been taken to good use against the Flyers.
 
"They are similar teams … Florida had a big speed-rush type of team just like Philly and that helped prepare us for this series," DeBoer said.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for Game 5:

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

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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 10:26 AM

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

Brodeur makes 40th birthday a night to remember

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur got his birthday wish on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinal at Prudential Center.
 
In addition to turning back 20 shots in securing a 4-2 victory on the day he turned 40 years old, he also added an assist for a little icing on the cake. The Devils now lead the best-of-seven series, 3-1.
 
Brodeur, who said the day would have been even sweeter had he been able to post a shutout, also established another hockey standard. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Brodeur became the first goalie in NHL history to appear in a playoff game in his teens and his 40s.
 
Brodeur's first postseason game came as 19-year-old when he replaced Chris Terreri in an 8-5 loss to the New York Rangers on April 27, 1992. His victory on Sunday before 17,625 was the 106th of his illustrious career. He is now 2-2 all-time in games played on his birthday.
 
"A shutout would have been better, but that's all right," Brodeur said. "It's great. The guys played awesome. It started a little rocky, but apart from that we were really good. We were on the puck, we were physical and we did the good things to win hockey game tonight."
 
Midway through the first period, backup goalie Johan Hedberg, who turned 39 on Saturday, and Brodeur had their names displayed on the center ice scoreboard to the delight of those in attendance. The ovation was loud, but Brodeur said he didn't see his name until the last second.
 
Brodeur assisted on an empty-net goal by Dainius Zubrus with 44.4 seconds remaining in the third period. The helper enabled him to become the oldest player in NHL history to record a playoff assist on his birthday.
 
"The guys played really well in front of me," Brodeur said. "It's nice to win the game. A lot of people talked about me turning 40 today. I was kind of center stage for whatever reason that is, but it's kind of nice to pull out a win."
 
He now has 12 career playoff points on one goal and 11 assists, moving him ahead of Patrick Roy into second place all-time among goaltenders behind only Grant Fuhr, who had 14 career playoff points (all assists).
 
Devils rookie center Adam Henrique was asked after the game if the team sang "Happy Birthday."
 
"No 'Happy Birthday,' just a big win and that's extra special," he said.
 
Zach Parise said the team presented Brodeur with the best gift possible this time of the year.
 
"A win … that was it," Parise said, grinning.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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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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