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Devils won't change their game plan

Wednesday, 11.05.2008 / 3:55 PM / NHL Insider

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

"Our game has never changed and will never change. Our game is hard work, basic hockey with a determined and defensive-minded approach. Defense is first and the offense works off of that. So as far as I'm concerned, we just have to take care of our own end and the offense will take care of itself."
-- Colin White

NEWARK, N.J. -- Don't expect the New Jersey Devils to unveil a hidden wrinkle or even showcase a new defensive scheme in the absence of Martin Brodeur.

The Devils, who learned Tuesday they would be without the 4-time Vezina Trophy winner for 3-4 months following surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon, will continue to do what they do -- stabilize their end, first and foremost, and then create chances off turnovers. When breakdowns occur, however, the club has a world of confidence in 11-year veteran Kevin Weekes.

"Nothing changes in our defensive game plan," Devils defenseman Colin White told NHL.com. "Obviously, things might change with Kevin playing the puck, but that's from a goalie's standpoint. We'll have to read and react to the play, as we always do. We still have to do our job in front of Kevin and the forwards have to play their game and help in our zone when needed.

"It's like when a skater goes down with an injury; nothing changes for the goalie. I think the mindset of going in without your best goalie of all time will be the biggest challenge. But once the game starts, you're not thinking about that. Kevin did a great job in our last game (28 saves in a 2-0 loss Monday) and we have confidence in him."

Johnny Oduya, who knows it'll be difficult for Brodeur to sit and watch following surgery Thursday, said the team will pull together in front of Weekes.

"Defensively, we want to eliminate the scoring chances and keep the shots more from the outside," Oduya said. "We have to take away the 3-on-2's and the 2-on-1 breakouts. Really, I think it all comes down to how hard we play as a complete unit every night. How we respond and play as a team will ultimately determine our success. Let's face it, we'd even lose a few games with Marty (Brodeur) in net if we weren't playing well."

Devils coach Brent Sutter agreed.

"My big thing is how we play as an overall team; that's what will determine the difference between winning and losing," Sutter said. "Obviously, your goaltender is a part of that, but it also depends on how everyone else plays. You can't have any passengers; you have to have everyone playing up to their potential."

While Tampa Bay Lightning coach Barry Melrose admitted the Devils will continue to play solid defensively, he also knows opposing teams might not be as intimidated with Brodeur on the shelf.

"I do feel the Devils will circle around Weekes and (Scott) Clemmensen, but I also know you won't have to have that perfect dump-in, either," Melrose said. "With Marty in net, sometimes even a perfect dump didn't matter because he would play it even before it hit the goal line, so I feel that aspect of the game will change for the Devils. They'll have to be better defensively and those defenders will have to get back and retrieve the puck. Usually, 5 times out of 10, Marty would just move it up and do that, so that definitely changes everything about how they play in their own end and how teams will approach that part."

Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador can see how opponents would consider that an area to attack, but he's also confident the club will adjust.

"Communication is all about tendencies," Salvador said. "We have to be on the same page with Kevin, knowing where he will lay the puck and where he won't. That stuff gets ironed out pretty quick, though, especially when you have the best players in the League coming down on you. It forces you to make quick decisions.''

Devils center Mike Rupp said the club is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

"Not taking anything from Marty because he is the catalyst of this franchise and has been for years, but we had a lot of 1-goal wins in previous seasons and I feel a lot of people discredited our hockey club because they felt we relied a little too much on Marty," Rupp said. "While there are nights when we absolutely do rely on him, our goal now is to show that, hey, we started off the year pretty well and have a really solid hockey team. We want to show that we can remain extremely competitive and contend for the Cup. The loss of Marty hurts, no doubt, but we're still that same team. It doesn't change the way the other 20-something guys in this room think. Weeksie will step in a do a nice job and we need to step up in front of him."

 
 
White is confident that once the game begins, the players will be focused on the task at hand.

"The only reason we're thinking about Marty so much now is because we're talking about it, but once the game starts, you have to play and you have to concentrate on what you're doing out there," White said. "You can't worry about things you can't control.

"Our game has never changed and will never change. Our game is hard work, basic hockey with a determined and defensive-minded approach. Defense is first and the offense works off of that. So as far as I'm concerned, we just have to take care of our own end and the offense will take care of itself."

Oduya, who leads the team with a plus-8 rating through 11 games, is looking forward to getting on the ice.

"I'm sorry to sound cliché, but what will carry us is how well we play as a complete unit," he said. "We want to play a strong team game and that's what Brent stressed all morning (at practice)."

"Obviously Marty's stature speaks for itself, but Marty's stature is part of what the team is about and we just have to continue to move on," Sutter said. "We take a lot of pride in playing with and without the puck and doing the little things right. We'll look to keep the scoring chances down because that's always a positive for any goalie."

Rupp will continue to play physical in front of his own net in attempt to assist Weekes.

"Any goalie is going to prefer that the shots come from the outside, but we also have to do a good job with rebounds and clearing out and making sure sticks aren't free around the net," Rupp said. "No matter who you have in front, if guys are getting their sticks on it, it's probably going to wind up in your net so I think our defensive style definitely helps. At the same time, our success this year has been when we've had the puck in the offensive zone and have controlled it. Our time of possession with the puck has been pretty good, and that's something we'll definitely have to get back to because it'll help our overall defensive game."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.
Quote of the Day

Obviously a lot happened in a short period of time. At the end of the day, considering everything I went through, I really felt close to my teammates and I really feel like what we accomplished, I know we didn't win it all. ... I'm really proud of how we got there and what we did once we got there.

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