With predictions coming from every angle on who will win the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, the Miss USA pageant saw a unique opportunity. On the eve of the Final, the organizers polled the 51 contestants in the 2012 edition of the contest to see who they favored to win the Cup.
Miss California, Natalie Pack, and Miss New Jersey, Michelle Leonardo, weren't shy about favoring their home-state teams, even posing for photos wearing their respective team's jersey.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Mark Fayne may have a finer appreciation for being drafted by New Jersey Devils CEO/president/general manager Lou Lamoriello than some of his teammates.
In four years playing at Providence College, the second-year defenseman was inundated with the Lamoriello legend. The man who has headed the Devils front office for over two decades was a fixture in Rhode Island and brought the Providence hockey program to its greatest heights.
Born and raised in the area, Lamoriello was a player and coach on the Providence hockey team and still holds the school record for coaching wins. After coaching a 1982-83 squad considered the best in school history, he stepped down to become the school's athletic director.
In 2009, Lamoriello earned the Vanguard Award for lifetime achievement at the annual Cox Rhode Island Sports Awards. A product of nearby Nashua, NH, Fayne appreciated Lamoriello's legacy long before arriving in New Jersey.
"Being at Providence, there is so much influence he still has there. Just seeing his name all over the rink," Fayne said. "The Hockey East [championship] trophy is the Lou Lamoriello Trophy, so that's what I was playing for for four years."
Fayne hasn't been alone in his appreciation for his boss. His former Providence teammate Matt Taormina has also broken in on the Devils defensive corp following four years playing with the Fryars.
"He was actually a partner of mine for two years," Fayne said. "It's really great."
JR: No. 1, they have to understand what they do very well and stop the Devils from playing their game, basically beat them at their own game. The Devils have an extremely good forecheck. They use their speed to get in on the defense, cause havoc, crate turnovers. The Kings have to make sure they really hold the gaps, hold the blue lines. They have to make sure the Devils dump the puck in and they have to get a lot of support from their centermen. One thing that will be really hard for them is the pressure. The Kings are going to get more pressure than they have all playoffs so far, and they have to make quick, good decisions with the puck. Obviously they have to have good goaltending, but first and foremost they have to make sure that they control the puck and possess the puck as much as they possibly can against a very good offensive team in the Devils.
NHL.com: What is the key to the Kings controlling the puck?
JR: Their game has been very good, very tight. Defensively they've been very good. But where they have been so much better against Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix is their ability to make good decisions with the puck. They move the puck, make the smart, easy decision. They are not forcing pucks. They are doing things very quickly, and when you do things quickly it frustrates the other team. The other team can work so hard on the forecheck, but when that puck is moved quick, accurately and smartly, you're going to beat the forecheck. The other team is going to exert a lot of energy, but not get anything done. I think that's what the Kings have to do, step that up just one more level, which you need to do in order to win in the Final.
NHL.com: What kind of pressure will it put on the Devils if they're able to do all that?
JR: It means the puck will be going the complete opposite way, and that's what the Kings have done so well. They're working together as units of five. It's not one or two guys working hard one shift. All five of them are working in unison. A team gets by one roadblock, and there is another one there. A team gets by that one, and there is another one there. Then if you get past the three walls, you've got a goaltender that has just been unbelievable.
NHL.com: Let's flip it, what do the Devils have to do to win Game 1?
JR: They have to outwork the Kings. The Kings, in my opinion, have been the hardest-working team in the playoffs so far. The Devils have to outwork them. They have to make sure they stay out of the penalty box, stay disciplined, but they have to continue their forecheck. Their forecheck has been so good. Their power play has to be very good, which will be tough because the Kings' penalty kill has been the best in the playoffs. But, all in all, they have to find a way to beat Jonathan Quick. They've got to get in his face.
NHL.com: The Canucks, Blues and Coyotes couldn't do that consistently. How can the Devils get in Quick's face?
JR: With Quick it's all second effort, secondary opportunities. The points have to shoot for deflections. They can't shoot to score because it's not too often that a defenseman is going to score from the blue line on a direct shot. They have to shoot for deflections and it's secondary. It's rebound to top shelf, rebound to top shelf. He covers the lower half of the net so well and he's so good laterally that it has to be a bang-bang play to get in the net, or it's not going to get there.
NHL.com: If the Devils can get to Quick, what kind of pressure does that put on the rest of the Kings?
JR: Well, the Kings haven't really been under duress at all in these playoffs. The Devils have. They've played a seven-game series. They've been down in series. They've been down in games. They've had to battle back. The Kings haven't had that. When you haven't had that deficit, that mentality or mind frame, that benefits the New Jersey Devils.
TORONTO -- Many of the top draft-eligible prospects were still filing into NHL Central Scouting headquarters here late on Monday night following their arrival at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.
At one point in the evening, Sarnia Sting teammates Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk decided to take a late-night tour of the mini-Reebok store set up in the hotel ballroom. Yakupov is rated the No. 1 prospect in North America by NHL Central Scouting. Galchenyuk, who appears to be fully recovered from ACL surgery in October, is No. 4 on the list.
While many have speculated that this summer would be a perfect time for the 40-year-old goalie to retire -- especially if his New Jersey Devils defeat the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, which begins in Newark with Game 1 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
But, Brodeur doesn't necessarily subscribe to that train of thought, at least according to the comments he made after Monday's practice at the Prudential Center. It is a continuation of the storyline he has espoused since January and he says emotional Stanley Cup Playoffs wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers and a unexpected berth in a fifth Stanley Cup Final have done nothing to change his mind.
"I can’t say no, but I doubt it," Brodeur said Monday when the idea of retiring if the Devils defeat the Kings in the Finals was broached. "I'm really enjoying this. Regardless of what happens in this series, I think we made a great step last year at the end of the year and through this year to have a really good team and a good coaching staff together and it’s fun. To me, it's all about having fun coming to the rink.
"I know a lot of people say it's great to retire on top, but at the end of the day, when I'm going to say it's over, it's over, I'm not going to come back. I want to make sure I make the right decision. Right now I'm leaning toward coming back. We'll see."
And, don't think that Brodeur is just being swayed by the magical run he and his team are on this spring. He began entertaining thoughts of playing beyond this year when his team rallied from an abysmal start in the 2010-11 season to almost make the playoffs in stunning fashion last year.
"The way I'm enjoying myself, we jelled as a team," Brodeur said. "Coming to the rink was fun, on the road was fun, that's what I was looking for. I didn't have fun last year. I'm not used to losing. That was tough. To me, I really thought this was going to be my last year, but more and more, it was I can still play."
Wednesday, in Game 1 of the Final, Brodeur will play in his 200th Stanley Cup Playoff game. Only Patrick Roy has played in more playoff games, registering 247 contests. Brodeur's counterpart from the Kings, Jonathan Quick, has played in just 27 postseason games.
Alex Galchenyuk is a forward for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot, 198-pound forward was born in Milwaukee but is of Russian decent -- his father, Alexander, spent five of his 22 professional seasons playing in the U.S. Alex was the first pick of the 2010 OHL draft, and last season had 31 goals and 52 assists in 68 games. He had 2 goals and an assist in five games for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and returned to take part in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August. Despite suffering a major knee injury that nearly ended his season before it really began, Galchenyuk has maintained a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
It's been a long season but I'm really happy now. I'm on my way to Toronto for the Scouting Combine.
That means the draft is almost here. I've been waiting and looking forward to this all my life and now it's all starting and no words can describe the feeling of excitement that I have.
To be honest I really don't know what to expect at the Combine but I think it might be a little similar to the Research and Development Camp in August, in terms of the atmosphere and with all the media and all the GMs of the teams. I think it will be an awesome experience, and I'm really looking forward to it.
I'm sure I'll be talking to a lot of teams over the next few days, and then I'll have the physical testing. But keep checking here and I'll keep you all updated with what I'm doing and how it's going.
NEWARK, N.J. -- There isn't a team that gets this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that doesn't have players with nagging injuries, but the Devils are about as healthy as can be with the Final set to start Wednesday night at Prudential Center.
Of all the Devils on the ice for practice Monday, none were used as extra forwards or defensemen because they were recovering from injury. The team's "fifth line" of Petr Sykora, Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton could all play if necessary, while seventh and eighth blueliners Adam Larsson and Henrik Tallinder are also well enough to play.
Tallinder has been out since Jan. 17 due to a blood clot in his leg, but coach Peter DeBoer said that is no longer an issue.
"He's ready to go," DeBoer said. "I have no apprehension (using him). We can play anyone we have available right now."
According to DeBoer, everyone is available. That's something few teams have when the calendar creeps toward June, but it's also something the just-as-healthy Kings can boast as well.
"This is a war of attrition," DeBoer said. "To be as healthy as we are, to have the luxury of having eight healthy defensemen right now and entire forward group, that's something very few teams have. Unfortunately, L.A. has the same thing, so there's no advantage. It's a nice spot to be in."
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils had their first practice Monday since vanquishing the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night, and Peter DeBoer didn't make any changes to his line combinations.
DeBoer shuffled his lines during the series-clinching Game 6 victory against the Rangers, and those were the lines on display at Amerihealth Pavilion. The "fifth line" featured Petr Sykora, Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen, all three of whom are likely to be healthy scratches during the Stanley Cup Final. The same can be said for defensemen Adam Larsson and Henrik Tallinder, at least to start the Final, who acted as the fourth d-pair.
Game 1 of the Final against the Los Angeles Kings is still two days away, but here is what the Devils went with Monday afternoon:
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. –Willie Mitchell wonders what would have happened if Les Widdifield hadn't seen him play 16 years ago.
Widdifield was a longtime scout for the New Jersey Devils, and he spotted a young Mitchell playing in tiny Melfort, Sasakatchewan. Widdifield, who died last September, liked what he saw and told his bosses to give this Mitchell kid a long look.
"I still remember that phone call," said Mitchell, who was drafted 199th by New Jersey in 1996 and spent five seasons in the organization. "They took a flyer on me – eighth round, 199 in 1996 playing Tier 2 junior. Probably if they didn't do that, I would have never got the chance."
DeBoer coached Richards as coach of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL for four years, from when Richards was 16 to 19. Richards served as captain on some of those teams, and the relationship helped produced a Memorial Cup in 2003 (New Jersey's David Clarkson was also on that team).
I'm here to develop a winning culture and a winning team. There is a bright future ahead of this team. A lot of young, great hockey players here and on the way … a fan base that's passionate about the game of hockey.
— Dan Bylsma after being introduced as new coach of the Buffalo Sabres