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Devils await conference final opponent

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

For the Devils, the wait continues.

They took care of their own business on Tuesday, ousting the rival Flyers in five games to clinch a berth in the Eastern Conference final. But Washington's Game 6 win over the Rangers on Wednesday means the Devils still don't know who stands between them and their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2003.

Game 7 between the Rangers and Capitals is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

"We're happy we're still playing," captain Zach Parise said Thursday. "I don't think it matters for us at all [who we play]. We've done a good job being prepared for both teams that we've played this year. We're more concerned with how we're playing as a team, and we're comfortable with how we're playing that we can match up against anyone."

The Capitals forced a seventh game by beating the Rangers, 2-1, at Verizon Center. It will be the second Game 7 for both clubs: Washington went the distance in knocking off the defending-champion Bruins, while the Rangers took out Ottawa.

That figures to be an advantage for the Devils, who should be well rested by the start of the next round.

"Every time you've got to play another game, we went through it with Florida, you're emptying the reserves in the tank, you're risking injury – all kinds of things are going on, potentially," Coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's not necessarily a formula for success if you're sitting home and someone else is playing, as we showed against Philly, but I think if you handle it right, it should be an asset for us."

Parise agreed that fatigue could be a factor for the Devils' next opponent.

"Hopefully it'll wear them out a little bit," he said. "I think, for them, they've got two days off before that Game 7, but hopefully they'll wear each other out a little more and we'll take advantage of the rest."

Some Devils said they plan on watching the deciding contest. Others admitted to being less focused on how it unfolds.

"I'll be paying attention," Parise said. "I don't know if I'll watch it or not, but I'll definitely be checking the score to see what happened."

Home ice advantage hangs in the balance. The Devils would open a Rangers series at the Garden, but a matchup against Washington would start at Prudential Center.

"I'll watch for sure," said David Clarkson. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to be at home with the game on, or watching parts of it, anyway. I probably won't watch the whole game, but I'll definitely watch some of it."

Martin Brodeur tuned in to Game 6 and saw Washington take a 2-0 lead before holding on for the win.

"It's going to be an interesting game [7]," he said. "I watched what happened [Wednesday] night. I have to try to do my homework, but I'm doing it on both sides. It'll be an exciting game to see who we're going to play."

Will it be the Rangers? The Caps? Brodeur believes it won't matter if the Devils can execute on their end. Still, a Devils-Rangers series has the potential to add another great chapter to what's already one of the top rivalries in hockey.

"I think a lot of people are looking at that to be a great matchup," Brodeur said. "But, for us, it's what we need to do to be successful. If it happens to be the Rangers, I think people will be really happy in this area. I think Washington is the same way. They have a great building, you saw that [Wednesday] in the way they got their support. It would be a tough place to play, too. One way or the other, for us, it doesn't matter. It's just about what we do."

Anton Volchenkov and Marek Zidlicky both rested Thursday and not take part in practice. Both are expected to be ready for Game 1… Defenseman Matt Taormina skated in practice.

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