NEWARK, N.J. -- It's amazing how the hockey gods seemingly spin their magic during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
How else can you explain the situation in which New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer now finds himself?
After failing to qualify for the playoffs in three seasons as head coach of the Florida Panthers, here's DeBoer with an opportunity to advance into the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the very place where it all began.
"I don't have a lot of thoughts on that," DeBoer told the media Wednesday afternoon prior to departing for Florida with his team. "I think when you finish seven or eight points above a team in the standings and have to play a Game 7 in their building, that's not always easy to swallow. But that's how the NHL works it, and we don't have any complaints about that. We're a good road team (24-15-2) and we'll be ready."
PANTHERS VS. DEVILS
Devils beat Panthers in OT to force Game 7By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
Travis Zajac ripped home a wrist shot from the left circle 5:39 into overtime Tuesday night, enabling the Devils to live another day with a 3-2 win against the Panthers and force a Game 7 back in Florida.
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The Panthers will host the Devils Thursday in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla. (8:30 p.m. ET, TSN, RDSI, NHLN-US, NBCSN, MSG Plus, FS-F).
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur doesn't believe playing a Game 7 in the building he coached for three seasons prior to New Jersey will weigh on DeBoer's mind too much.
"I don't think he's thinking like that," Brodeur said. "We're doing a job here in New Jersey and, regardless of who we play, I don't think it really matters. It's about us beating the team we're facing and that team happens to be his former team.
"I'm sure in the back of his mind, when he'll think about the whole thing, if it happened it would be bittersweet," Brodeur continued. "Right now, we're just focused on getting ourselves ready to play the game to save our season and move on."
The Devils evened the series Tuesday following a stirring 3-2 overtime victory in Game 6 before a packed house at Prudential Center. It was a game in which New Jersey dominated every which way, but DeBoer realizes now is the time his team needs to channel that inspired effort and carry it into Game 7.
After all, New Jersey had posted an impressive 4-0 victory in Game 4 only to watch the Panthers rebound for a 3-0 triumph in Game 5. Momentum in this series has changed quite frequently and DeBoer knows it's now up to the Devils to make certain it doesn't happen again.
"There will be no real difference from Game 6 to Game 7 for us," DeBoer said. "We're preparing the same way. The biggest thing is to not over-coach and change things. We just want to keep doing things we've done. You've seen the same team six times now and we understand what works against them and what doesn't. It's just reinforcing that."
DeBoer said if he was told at the start of the season that he would need one win to advance to the conference semifinal round, he'd have taken it.
"All you have to do is look around the League to really appreciate how tough the playoffs are," DeBoer said. "Look at the quality of some of the teams that are sitting on the sidelines right now. So, absolutely, we'll take one game."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale