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Panthers vs Devils - 2012 Stanley Cup Conference Quarterfinals

Devils-Panthers matchup serves up memories

Alain Poupart - Correspondent


SUNRISE, Fla. — The last time the Florida Panthers were in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they were swept in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals by a New Jersey Devils team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in six years.

Veteran Panthers center John Madden has fond memories of that series -- because he was a part of it, as a member of the Devils.

"It was my first playoff series, actually, so I do remember it quite well," Madden said. "I remember that year [Pavel] Bure was on their team. I just remember him being extremely fast throughout the series but at the same time I remember winning four straight. It was just fun. It was a good experience for me because it was my first time; had a lot of fun in that series."

Parise's impact as captain felt through Devils' room

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

"At camp the coaches said to improve my game I should watch Zach and how he plays the game. So, I watched him for the first couple of weeks and once I came back up (from the AHL) and we were put on the same line, you just recognize how hard he plays every shift. That's something I tried to put into my game … and my game started to improve." -- Adam Henrique

NEWARK, N.J. -- Zach Parise's ears were already buzzing, but now his eyes were wide open, too.

Devils center Adam Henrique had just finished talking about how much he has learned in his rookie season from Parise, about how much better of a player he is because of the New Jersey captain, who just happens to be his neighbor in the dressing room.

"It has taken my game to the next level," Henrique was telling with Parise standing a mere three feet away fielding questions from other reporters. "It's probably the reason why I'm at the point where I am now. Soaking in all I can from him has helped me tremendously."

Brodeur starts playoffs with more milestones to reach

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Martin Brodeur will look to become only the second goalie in NHL history to reach the century mark in playoff wins when the New Jersey Devils open their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers on Friday at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.

Brodeur, who has basically re-written the regular-season record book for goalies in career games (1,191), victories (656), shutouts (119) and minutes played (70,028), would join Hall of Famer Patrick Roy as the only players to win 100 playoff games.

"It would be nice," Brodeur said. "Durability and my being able to start so many playoff games in a row is something I'm taking a lot of pride in. I've been blessed over my career, injury-wise and that the team had confidence in me, putting me in there year in and year out."

Roy finished with 151 wins in 247 games spanning 18 seasons with the Montreal Candiens and Colorado Avalanche. Brodeur enters this year's playoffs having won 99 games in 181 appearances spanning 18 seasons with just one team -- the Devils.

Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk expects Brodeur to get his milestone win sooner rather than later.

Panthers close to Devils in playoff experience level

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2000, but this is not a team lacking in postseason experience.

In fact, they're pretty close in that department to their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal opponents, the New Jersey Devils, a team that's missed the playoffs just three times since 1988 and has won the Stanley Cup three times in the last 17 years.

The players on the Devils' roster have combined for 908 Stanley Cup Playoff games, led by goalie Martin Brodeur's 181 and Patrik Elias' 138.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have a combined 790 playoff games, topped by former Devils center John Madden's 134, Mikael Samuelsson's 92 and Brian Campbell's 90.

However, Florida has the edge when it comes to the number of players with at least 40 career playoff games, with nine compared to New Jersey's seven.

And the Panthers also have five players -- Madden, Campbell, Samuelsson, Tomas Kopecky and Kris Versteeg -- who have won the Stanley Cup, compared to the New Jersey trio of Brodeur, Elias and Petr Sykora.

Weiss excited for Stanley Cup Playoffs debut

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- All those years of watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs on television were tough on Stephen Weiss, but nothing was as painful as last year.

When Boston beat Vancouver in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last June, Weiss had to watch as longtime teammates Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell celebrated the Bruins' championship.

"That was difficult," Weiss said. "I was one of the happiest guys for them for sure, but at the same time [not long] before that they're sitting beside you in your hotel room and you see them out there holding the Stanley Cup, it's tough to swallow. There was a little bit of extra fire burning in the belly over the summer to train harder and get to this point now."

"This point" is the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and for the first time in a career that began in April 2002, Weiss is a part of it.

After playing 637 games, Weiss finally will get to experience what playoff hockey is all about when the Florida Panthers open their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Devils Friday (7 p.m., NHLN-US, TSN) at BankAtlantic Center.

Forward thinking helped Devils set PK record

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

Penalty-killing units are usually filled with the muckers and grinders of an NHL roster, players who are defensive in nature and enthusiastic about sliding in front of slap shots and passes alike in order to keep the opposition off the scoreboard.

The New Jersey Devils, who set a modern-day record for penalty-killing efficiency this season, have taken a different approach toward playing shorthanded.

It's not out of the ordinary to see a team use its best offensive forwards to kill penalties -- Anze Kopitar of the Kings, Eric Staal of the Hurricanes, Claude Giroux of the Flyers, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks, to name a few -- but the Devils are the only team whose top-four scorers are in the team's top five in shorthanded ice time among forwards.

Dainius Zubrus is the team leader among forwards (2:00 average per game), but he's followed by Zach Parise (1:57), Adam Henrique (1:47), Patrik Elias (1:46) and Ilya Kovalchuk (1:09). The unique situation is a big reason why the Devils killed 89.6 percent of the penalties against this season, breaking the mark of 89.3 set by the Dallas Stars during the 1999-2000 season.

"Those guys are dangerous," said forward Travis Zajac, a staple on the penalty-killing unit who has missed all but 15 games this season due to an Achilles' injury. "They're good at anticipating plays and jumping on guys and knowing when to jump and when to back off. When we get the puck, we're making plays. We're not just throwing it down the ice.

Dineen's playing experiences help him as NHL coach

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Now that the Florida Panthers are back in the playoffs, general manager Dale Tallon should get ready to start receiving some well-deserved kudos for the way he reshaped the team's roster last summer with an influx of veterans, most of whom performed up to expectations, and often beyond.

But there was another decision Tallon made a month before all those moves that was just as important, if not more, and he obviously hit the mark when he hired Kevin Dineen to be the team's new coach.

The Panthers' ability to earn a spot in the playoffs this season, let alone win the Southeast Division, came as a surprise to many observers. The reason expectations were so low wasn't the personnel, but rather the belief that it would take some time for all the new parts to mesh.

That's where Dineen came in.

"It's a very difficult task to come in and have 10, 12 new players, new bodies, and try to get everybody on the same page," first-year Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said before his team faced the Panthers on Tuesday. "I think Kevin Dineen has done a really good job here, and his staff, getting everybody going. They suffered through injuries like everyone else, but they've been able to have a really successful season. They've been consistent. They've got some bright young players and bringing in some older guys, but it's all worked out well."

Why New Jersey will win the Cup

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

There's reason for optimism if you're a New Jersey Devils fan entering the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.


The Big Why: The Devils also have three 30-goal scorers at their disposal. That's something the organization hadn't produced in nine seasons.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and David Clarkson all surpassed the 30-goal mark this season and four players topped 50-plus points in Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Parise and rookie Adam Henrique.

Speaking of Henrique, the 22-year-old versatile forward certainly had a coming-out party in his first NHL season. Not only did Henrique finish among the League's top three rookies in points, but he gained valuable experience centering Parise and Kovalchuk in the absence of Travis Zajac earlier this season. He also ranked second on the team in faceoff wins behind Elias.

Why Florida will win the Cup

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The Florida Panthers are not a favorite to win the Stanley Cup -- far from it, in fact. But that stealth might be their biggest weapon as they gun for their first Stanley Cup championship.

Every team will underestimate the Panthers, but their balance, structure, goaltending and experience gives this team enough to be the last one standing in mid-June.

The Big Why: Oddly enough for a team that has been absent from the playoffs for more than a decade, it's about experience.

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