See You (or Us) in the Final: New Jersey and Carolina have met in the playoffs three previous times. On each occasion, the series winner went on to reach the Stanley Cup Final. In 2001, the Devils beat the Hurricanes in six games in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and reached the Cup Final, losing to Colorado. In 2002, Carolina won the Clubs' first-round matchup and made it to the Final, losing to Detroit. In 2006, on its way to winning the Stanley Cup, Carolina defeated New Jersey in five games in the conference semis.
You can go Home again: Carolina reached back into its recent past at the trade deadline, re-acquiring popular and productive winger Erik Cole to help spark a season-ending surge. The Hurricanes also replaced head coach Peter Laviolette with Paul Maurice, who had coached them to the 2002 Final. The Devils brought back to veteran forwards, Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston via free agency last summer and then signed their former first-round draft pick Brendan Shanahan (1st choice, 2nd overall, 1987) during the season.
Flowing Youth: A couple of first-round picks from the loaded 2003 Entry Draft are the teams' respective offensive leaders. C Eric Staal, the second pick in that draft, had his second career 40-goal season, notched eight game-winning goals and led the NHL with four hat tricks. LW Zach Parise, the 17th pick in the '03 draft, had a breakout season, scoring a career-high 45 goals that ranked third in the NHL.
Strong Closing Kicks: The Devils regrouped after a wobble (0-5-1) in late March to win four of their last five games. Carolina powered down the stretch, going 13-1-1 to lock up a playoff berth before dropping their last two games – including a season-finale defeat at New Jersey.
Opponents now, Teammates in Vancouver? Goaltenders Martin Brodeur of New Jersey and Cam Ward of Carolina will reprise their 2006 playoffs duel, which Ward won by holding the Devils to two goals or fewer in four of five games. The two could well be teammates on the Canadian Olympic Team next February in Vancouver as Brodeur is an Olympic and World Cup gold medalist and Ward among the best young veterans in the game.
New Jersey Devils
NHL Playoff Appearance: 20th (12th consecutive)
Stanley Cups: 3 (1995, 2000, 2003)
Last Playoff Series Win: 2007 (Conference Quarter-Final vs. Tampa Bay)
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 22-16
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 118-100
Mar. 2: Acquired D Niclas Havelid and LW Myles Stoesz from Atlanta for D Anssi Salmela.
The Devils qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 12th consecutive season, the NHL's second-longest active streak behind Detroit (18). They also posted their 12th consecutive 40-win season, tying Boston (1968-69 to 1979-80) for the second longest such streak in League history. Montreal recorded 13 consecutive 40-win seasons from 1970-71 to 1982-83.
Martin Brodeur established one of the NHL's most celebrated records by posting his 552nd career regular-season victory, more than any goaltender in League history, with a 3-2 decision over the Chicago Blackhawks at Prudential Center on Mar.17. Brodeur had returned to action Feb. 26 after being out since Nov. 1 with a torn biceps tendon that required surgery. He recorded eight victories in his first nine starts -- including two shutouts -- to pass Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, who recorded 551 wins with the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche from 1984-85 through 2002-03.
The Devils went 32-17-1 in the 50 games Martin Brodeur missed with an arm injury from Nov. 3 to Feb. 21. Goaltender Scott Clemmensen went 25-13-1 in that span, including shutouts in two consecutive starts, Feb. 13 vs. Boston and Feb. 9 vs. NY Rangers. Clemmensen became the first Devils goaltender other than Martin Brodeur to record consecutive shutouts. Clemmensen was voted by his teammates as the Devils' Unsung Hero for 2008-09.
LW Zach Parise set single-season career highs in virtually every major category in 2008-09, including goals (45), assists (49), points (94), power-play goals (14), game-winning goals (eight) and plus-minus (+30). He also set a franchise record with 364 shots on goal. He ranked third in the League in goals and shots and fifth in points.
LW Patrik Elias set a franchise record with his 702nd career point in a 3-2 win over Chicago Mar. 17, passing current Devils assistant coach John MacLean. Elias ranked second on the Devils in scoring with 78 points (31 goals, 47 assists) -- his best offensive season since tallying a career-high 96 points for the Devils in 2000-01.
When RW Brendan Shanahan returned to the team's lineup on Jan. 19 at Nashville, he set an NHL record for the longest gap between regular-season games with one team. Shanahan's prior regular-season game with New Jersey had been March 31, 1991 (6,504 days between games). Shanahan became just the 12th player in NHL history to play in 1,500 career regular-season games Feb. 11 vs. NY Islanders.
RW Dainius Zubrus became just the fifth player in team history to score four goals in a regular-season game Nov. 23 at Tampa Bay. Zubrus joined Pat Verbeek (Feb. 28, 1988 vs. Minnesota), Randy McKay and John Madden (Oct. 28, 2000 at Pittsburgh) and Patrik Elias (Mar. 30, 2003 vs. NY Islanders).
Nov. 15: Facing Washington with four consecutive losses and a 7-7-2 record to start the season, the Devils led 5-4 in the dying seconds when the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin scored with one second remaining in regulation time. The Devils avoided a fifth consecutive loss and kick-started a 9-1-0 run by prevailing in the shootout.
Dec. 12: The Devils blew a four-goal lead but recovered to defeat the New York Rangers, 8-5, in a wild Atlantic Division encounter. New York had been 9-0-2 against the Devils in the 11 previous meetings and had outscored New Jersey, 9-3, in two wins earlier in the season. Devils goaltender Scott Clemmensen improved to 8-1 in nine starts following the injury to starter Martin Brodeur. The Devils finally solved Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who had posted a 1.24 goals-against average in 11 previous starts against them.
Jan. 30: Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner tied the game with 31 seconds left in regulation, then scored his third straight game-winner in overtime as the Devils extended their season-high winning streak to eight games with a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Feb. 15: The Devils completed a sweep of Conference leaders by defeating the San Jose Sharks, 6-5, thanks to David Clarkson's goal with 3:32 to play. New Jersey had defeated the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins, 1-0, in its previous game. The Devils won for the 13th time in 15 games.
Apr. 9: The Devils set a franchise record with their 50th victory of the season and clinched their fourth Atlantic Division title in the past six campaigns with a 3-2 shootout win at Ottawa. RW Brian Gionta became the team's fifth 20-goal scorer and reached the milestone for the fifth consecutive season.
NHL Playoff Appearance: 13th (first since 2006)
Stanley Cups: 1 (2006)
Last Playoff Series Win: 2006 (Stanley Cup Final vs. Edmonton)
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 8-11
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 51-58
Feb. 7: Acquired LW Jussi Jokinen from Tampa Bay for LW Wade Brookbank, D Josef Melichar and Carolina's 4th-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft.
Mar. 4: Acquired LW Erik Cole from Edmonton for C Patrick O'Sullivan and Carolina's 2nd-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft.
With a furious stretch drive, the Hurricanes qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06 and the fifth time in the 11 seasons since the franchise relocated from Hartford. Feast or famine has been Carolina's recent postseason story -- it went to the 2002 Final, missed the playoffs the next two seasons, won the 2006 Stanley Cup and missed the playoffs the next two seasons. The Hurricanes went 13-1-2 in a 16-game stretch from Mar. 3 to Apr. 7 to soar into the Eastern Conference's top eight.
Paul Maurice replaced the man who had replaced him, Peter Laviolette, when he took over as Carolina head coach for the second time on Dec. 3. Maurice led Carolina to its first playoff success -- a run to the 2002 Final. Laviolette took over for Maurice on Dec. 15. 2003 and coached the Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup. Carolina went 33-19-5 under Maurice this season.
C Eric Staal added to his reputation as one of the League's premier power forwards by scoring 40 goals, the fourth straight season the fifth-year player has eclipsed 30 goals. Staal broke a franchise record by recording his fourth hat trick of the season Apr. 7 vs. the NY Islanders. He was a force down the stretch, scoring 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in the Hurricanes' final 20 games. Carolina went 22-3-2 in games in which he scored a goal and eight of his goals were game-winners. Staal has missed just one game (Mar. 19, 2004) to injury his entire career; including playoffs, he has played in 361 consecutive games.
Having made an emotional return to the Hurricanes' lineup for Game 6 of the 2006 Final after missing 3½ months with a broken neck, LW Erik Cole returned to the Carolina franchise Mar. 4 via a three-way trade after spending the season's first six months with Edmonton. He scored 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 17 games upon rejoining Carolina. The 'Canes went 12-3-2 after his return.
Consistently productive LW Ray Whitney produced one of the best of his 16 NHL seasons by reaching the 20-goal mark for the eighth time and eclipsing 70 points for the third time. Another 'Cane who finished strong, he recorded 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) over the final 18 games. On Mar. 6 vs. Calgary, Whitney scored his 300th career goal to complete his third NHL hat trick. On Mar. 25 vs. Ottawa, he recorded his 500th career assist.
G Cam Ward's brilliance was as big a reason as any for Carolina's late-season success. Ward started 28 consecutive games from Feb. 7 to Apr. 9, going 19-7-2 record, 2.30 goals-against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts in that span. He set a franchise record by posting nine consecutive victories from Mar. 18 to Apr. 7. His 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Apr. 7 was his 39th win and seventh shutout of the season, breaking and tying the respective franchise records. In March, he went 10-1-2 with a 1.98 goals against average and .938 save percentage to be named NHL 'First Star' of the Month.
Oct. 11: One night after overcoming a two-goal deficit in defeating the Florida Panthers in their season opener, the Hurricanes came from even farther off the pace to win their second game. Trailing, 3-0, late in the second period at Tampa Bay, Carolina launched a comeback that culminated in Eric Staal's game-tying goal in the third period and game-winner with 23.6 seconds remaining in overtime.
Oct. 25: The Hurricanes escape from Long Island with a 4-3 overtime victory despite being outshot, 60-28. Carolina goaltender Cam Ward stopped 57 shots -- the most by a goaltender in the NHL this season -- in withstanding a barrage that set an Islanders franchise record for most shots in a regular-season game.
Mar. 3: In a game that many will remember for Washington's Alexander Semin scoring a goal from his knees, it was the Hurricanes who got the win, scoring in a variety of ways in a 5-2 victory over the Capitals. Carolina tallied on a penalty shot, shorthanded, on the power play and at even strength. The win launched Carolina on one of the best extended runs by any club this season – the Hurricanes' earned a point in 14 of 15 games from Mar. 3 through Apr. 4 (12-1-2).
Apr. 4: Defenseman Anton Babchuk scored at 1:11 of overtime -- his third game-winner in an eight-game span -- to give the Hurricanes a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins and their first Stanley Cup Playoff berth since 2006.
Apr. 7: The Hurricanes tied a franchise record with their ninth consecutive victory and extended their team-record home winning streak to 12 with a 9-0 win over the New York Islanders. Carolina goaltender Cam Ward posted a team-record 39th victory of the season and center Eric Staal set a team mark with his fourth hat trick of the campaign. The 57-12 shots advantage also was the widest in team history.