EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It took three straight losses, but Devils coach Peter DeBoer appears to be ready to tweak his lineup during the Stanley Cup Final.
Forward Petr Sykora will apparently return to the lineup for Game 4 on Wednesday night and replace Jacob Josefson, who snagged Sykora's spot in the lineup after Game 2 of the conference finals against the Rangers.
Sykora skated at practice Tuesday afternoon on a line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus while Josefson was skating with Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton as part of the extra fifth line. DeBoer wouldn't say for certain Sykora is back, but he said he's considering the switch.
"He's an option for us," DeBoer said. "We're going to consider him. We haven't scored and he's a guy who doesn't need a lot of looks to stick one in the net."
The Devils won the series in six games, exacting a small measure of revenge for the 1994 conference finals when Messier's Rangers defeated the Devils in seven games and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Messier was on hand Monday at Staples Center before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final to announce the finalists for his leadership award, a trio that included the Rangers' Ryan Callahan, the Kings' Dustin Brown and the Coyotes' Shane Doan, and discussed his emotions while watching the Devils and Rangers renew pleasantries 18 years later.
"It was an incredible time," said Messier, who serves as a special assistant to Rangers GM Glen Sather. "A lot of our teammates were texting back and forth and talking during the series. I was trying to stay out of the way during the series. I really felt the players on both teams earned the right to be in that position and shouldn't have been overshadowed by things that happened prior to that series. My ship had sailed a long time ago."
One of the big reasons the Rangers fell short this year was Marian Gaborik, who played nearly the entire postseason with a torn rotator cuff and had just five goals and six assists in 20 games. Gaborik will be out five to six months while he recovers, meaning he could miss the first couple of months of the 2012-13 season, but Messier has seen him grow since signing with the Rangers three years ago.
"Marian Gaborik is 10 times the hockey player he was when he came to the Rangers," Messier said. "He continues to improve and continues to want to improve."
Despite the disappointment, Messier believes this year's deep run for a young Rangers team could pay dividends down the road.
"I think the last three years have been a real great spark for the team and the organization," Messier said. "I think Glen has really done a great job of getting some key people in the right spots. I think the year that we had this year is a culmination of what we had the last couple years. Going forward, I think this year, you can't quantify what it means for these players to play this string of playoff hockey, to feel what it's like to play that deep in the playoffs. Those are hard lessons to learn unless you experience them. From that standpoint, our team has taken a major leap forward this year."
Devils coach Peter DeBoer said before the series, which the Kings lead 2-0 with Game 3 set for Monday night at Staples Center, that David Clarkson was a big-time goal-scorer. Despite Clarkson's missed chances in Game 1 and struggles in Game 2, DeBoer maintains that belief.
"Yeah, for me that hasn't changed," DeBoer said. "I thought Game 1, he was arguably our best forward. I thought he could have had two or three goals. He's a guy on the verge of breaking out, as is (Zach) Parise, as is (Ilya) Kovalchuk.
"I don't think it's any secret -- we have to score more than one goal. All those guys on that list have to find a way."
Clarkson had a pair of golden opportunities in Game 1, but never got his shot to the net on either of them. In one instance, Quick was well out of position, but Clarkson snapped his shot over the net and off the glass.
Rushed shots and overthinking, however, are two things that come with the territory when facing an elite goaltender like Quick.
"Yeah, he's a good goalie," Clarkson said. "The first one I let get away from me, was trying to go high. I thought maybe he was going to go down. I tried to go up high, missing that one. On the other, there was so much excitement when I saw the open net, I don't know if I hit the guy's skate or what happened.
"But, yeah, he's a goalie that definitely makes you think. You can't do that. This time of the season, we have to put it on net, get back to doing what made us successful and got us here today."
Parise put the puck into the net in Game 1, but did so illegally with his glove. Kovalchuk hit a crossbar in the dying seconds of regulation in Game 2. The two were put on a line together at the end of Game 2 and will likely start that way in Game 3.
"I feel like we had good scoring opportunities," Parise said. "Even in overtime, I know we had two or three good chances there, too. All in all, I thought it was OK. I mean, we didn't end up putting one in the net, but we had some chances. Hopefully we'll rebound tonight. We've played pretty well together all season. Hopefully tonight will be better."
MARINA DEL REY, Calif. -- It was a little bit before 8 a.m. local time Monday when Devils coach Peter DeBoer stepped to the podium in a conference room at The Ritz-Carlton hotel, which is about 30 minutes from Staples Center, the site of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"It's one of those things where I didn't really focus too much on it, to be honest," Salvador said. "It hasn't been that big of a deal."
It's a massive change in routine for the Devils in many respects. One, very rarely will a team eschew a morning skate unless it is playing on back-to-back days. Also, this was the first time the Devils boarded a plane since eliminating the Florida Panthers in the first round on April 26.
If the 37-day break from air travel isn't enough, Game 3 of the Cup Final is the Devils' first outside of the Eastern time zone since playing in Winnipeg on Jan. 14.
"We were pretty fortunate for two series to not get on a plane," Greene said. "It feels good to get back into this routine a little bit and get back on the road and get away from home and get back to being focused on just the single thing, it's the game. It's not that we're not focused at home, but on the road, there are a lot less distractions. I think it'll be a big plus for us."
"Hopefully it plays to our advantage, getting that extra rest and not having those long flights," Parise said. "Hopefully as the series moves on, that'll be to our advantage."
Despite the unique game-day schedule, DeBoer said the plan was to get his team adjusted to the Pacific time zone as quickly as possible.
"We had a later dinner," DeBoer said. "We tried to keep the guys up until 10 or 11 o'clock. I don't know if it's realistic, but you want to get on L.A. time as quickly as you can. That's our thought process."
Greene said not having a game-day skate at Staples Center shouldn't be a hindrance.
"I don't think it's that big of a deal," he said. "We had a good practice yesterday after we got off the flight, had good energy out there. Guys were upbeat and ready. It's not like when we skate out there in the morning skate, it's not like we're out there for an hour testing the ice anyways. You're out there for 10 or 15 minutes and done. Get out there in warmups, get a good warmup and be ready for the game.
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The Devils are down 2-0 in the series, but DeBoer liked the way his team raised its game in a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 2 after losing in the same fashion in Game 1.
"We seriously consider lineup changes," DeBoer said. "We've got some depth players, some big people that are available to us. The process we've gone through after every game is watch the tape and see who can come in or come out and make us a better team. We don't want to do it based on the situation we're in. A couple guys had good games last game, and just because you lost or you're in a 2-0 hole doesn't mean you make changes just to make changes. I don't think we're at that point. We don't need to panic and do that."
Defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who is healthy after dealing with a blood clot in his leg in January, made the trip to Los Angeles but will not break into the lineup. Rookie Adam Larsson, who hasn't played since Game 1 of the conference finals against the Rangers, will sit for the eighth straight game.
These are the lines the Devils showed at practice Tuesday. With a 5 p.m. local start time for Game 3, the Devils did not have a morning skate.
DeBoer shuffled his lines during the end of Game 2 on Saturday -- the Devils' second straight 2-1 overtime loss of the series -- and that was what was on display at practice Sunday afternoon. There was no change to the defense pairings, with Henrik Tallinder and Adam Larsson skating together.
"We look at every option after every game, win or lose," said DeBoer, who liked his team's performance in Game 2. "We want to put the best lineup on the ice. All those guys are a consideration after every game."
Here is what the Devils showed at practice. The team will not skate in the morning before Game 4 on Monday, as the local start time for the game is 5 p.m. Instead, the Devils will only have media availability at their hotel at 8 a.m.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils' power play had three shots in four empty chances in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night. Not only were the Devils inept with the man-advantage, they allowed the Kings two shots while they were killing penalties.
The final power-play opportunity came late in regulation with the game tied, and while the Devils didn't get a shot on goaltender Jonathan Quick, forward Ilya Kovalchuk ripped a shot that hit the crossbar. That was about as close as the Devils came to scoring on the power play in a game they would lose in overtime 2-1 to fall into a 2-0 series hole.
"It's embarrassing the way we played," Kovalchuk said about the power play. "We have to work harder on the power play. We just think it'll be easy, but they have a great penalty kill for a reason. We have to be sharper and work, support each other everywhere, because I don't think we got a shot on net in three power plays."
The Devils are now 0-for-6 in the series, which shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Monday night. During their first power play, which came early in the first period, the Devils never generated a sustained attack. Instead, the Devils allowed two scoring chances to forwards Mike Richards and Trevor Lewis, sapping the strength of a strong start.
Less than two minutes after that first power play didn't bear fruit, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty gutted the Devils' defense for a highlight-reel goal that made it 1-0.
"I don't know if it's our PP or their PK," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "They're killing really aggressively and making a lot of good plays. They're not taking any chances and we're having a hard time getting to our setup. It's definitely something we have to work at and make sure we're a little better."
NEWARK, N.J. -- A blood clot in his left leg kept Henrik Tallinder out of the Devils lineup since Jan. 17, but the 33-year-old defenseman is now healthy enough to board a plane to Los Angeles during the Stanley Cup Final.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he has no reservations about putting Tallinder in his lineup, although that won't be the case in Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final against the Kings on Saturday night (8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS). DeBoer had some concerns about letting Tallinder take a six-hour flight due to his blood-clotting condition, but the team gave him clearance.
"Sure, you worry about it," DeBoer said. "Our doctors, trainers and him have a comfort level or he wouldn't be traveling with us. It's definitely an issue. I think a lot of people point to airplane flight as the cause for that."
Tallinder wasn't available Saturday to discuss what precautions he'll need to take in order to fly, but he once again skated with the team's black aces. He has been healthy enough to play for about two weeks, and DeBoer has fewer worries about putting Tallinder back in the lineup after such a long layoff after seeing forwards Travis Zajac and Jacob Josefson seamlessly jump back into game conditions after lengthy absences.
You're never sure. I do know this -- he's kept himself in great shape," DeBoer said. "He looks good in practice. Before he went out, he was a top-two defenseman for us. You miss two, two and a half months. It didn't hurt Zajac coming back in. I know you're jumping into the Stanley Cup Final, not into the last week of the regular season. But Josefson jumped in last round against the Rangers coming off six weeks out with a broken wrist, and it didn't hurt him.
"You hope you get the desired result, but you never know."
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils had arguably their worst start to a game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night.
Through 34 minutes, 30 seconds, they had just six shots on goal. They had a hard time getting out of their own zone, completing a pass was a monumental task and most players were treating the puck like a ticking time bomb instead of making the calm decisions that were a cornerstone to their forecheck and pressure through three rounds.
The Devils could've chalked it up to many reasons. They could have blamed the ice or credited the Los Angeles Kings with playing well, but instead owned up to their shakiness during the early stages of their 2-1 overtime loss in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Prudential Center.
"We were excited to start, but I thought we were a little nervous in the first period in the way that we played," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "I thought we settled in pretty good after that."
Wait, the Devils were nervous?
"It's the Stanley Cup Final," Brodeur said matter-of-factly. "It's not that easy to go out and perform. You have to wait to see what kind of atmosphere it's going to be. Whether it's five times for me or the first time, you get butterflies. It's an exciting time to be part of it. I'm sure the Kings will tell you the same thing. They were probably nervous at times also. It's what hockey's all about."
All but five Devils were playing in their first Final on Wednesday, and perhaps the pressure got to them early. The Devils had 11 giveaways to the Kings' six and while they overcame a 1-0 deficit to tie it late in the second period, they clearly weren't as sharp as they had been during the conference finals against the New York Rangers. >
Even Ilya Kovalchuk, who hasn't been this deep in the playoffs during his career, said his teammates' nerves were evident early.
I think it was probably the worst game in the playoffs for us," Kovalchuk said. "Maybe we were a little too nervous before the game starts. But it's no excuse. We got to make sure we know what we're doing right and get better."
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NEWARK, N.J. -- Simon Gagne won't be in the Kings' lineup for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, but coach Darryl Sutter reiterated that the forward's chances of playing in the next two weeks are better than they had been in the past.
"I'm not answering that question again about Simon," said Sutter, who has been receiving the question pretty steadily since the end of conference finals. "Cleared for contact, cleared for practice, traveling with the team. So there won't be any further update on that one because, quite honestly, the answer is the same and I don't know how to answer it. You tell the truth or say nothing."
The honest Sutter will likely ice the same lineup that got the Kings to the Cup Final with a 12-2 mark and 8-0 road record. Here are the expected lineup combinations the Devils will face:
[Stamkos] is a great teammate and a great leader, that's why he's got the 'C'. He brings that tremendous work ethic to the rink and he's one of the top players in the game. I know if I put the passes where they are supposed to be, there's a very good chance he's going to put it in the back of the net.
— Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin on linemate Steven Samkos
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