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Devils salute fan support in 2008-09

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
All four playoff games at Prudential Center were sold out. – A Devils postseason that opened with high expectations ended in a tough first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Fans of Jersey’s Team might need some time to get over the frustrating finish in Game 7, but the Devils organization has already praised the fan support from the 2008-09 season.

“Our fans were just tremendous,” said Devils’ President, CEO and General Manager Lou Lamoriello. “The support that they gave us this year and what they created in this building was not only appreciated, but noticed, and extremely helpful to the players.

"Their response to what (Prudential Center) has brought, and the enjoyment that they’ve had rubs off in every direction. This building is what we all thought it would be, and the fan support couldn’t have been better than it was in the playoffs.”

Patrik Elias said the fan showing was as outstanding as any he had seen in his 11 years wearing red and black. All four playoff games at the Rock were sold out.

“The fans we had last game and throughout the playoffs this year were the best crowds we’ve had in my career here,” Elias said. “They deserved to have a few more home games. They were really behind us. It’s as disappointing for us as it was to them.”

The Devils led Carolina 3-2 late in regulation only to surrender two goals in the final 1:20 of the third period. New Jersey fell, 4-3, in the series-deciding contest.

It was a missed opportunity to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“There’s probably a lot of things that could’ve been done differently, but we’ll have plenty of time to think about that over the summer,” Devils' leading scorer Zach Parise said. “Everyone’s still pretty disappointed, but you have to forget about it and move on.”

A six-month regular season journey segued into an opening-round epic that went the distance.

“I don’t think anyone expected to be here packing up at this time of the season," Parise said. "Going into the season, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves, even going into Game 6 and Game 7 we thought for sure we’d be moving on. It’s amazing how quickly things can change, and all of a sudden you’re packing up your gear.”

As much as this year will be known for its premature conclusion, it should also be remembered for its high points.

Martin Brodeur missed 50 games with an elbow injury but returned to register his 552nd win and surpass Patrick Roy for the NHL’s all-time record. Elias tallied his 702nd point and took over for John MacLean as the all-time leading scorer in Devils history. Parise’s 45 goals matched MacLean for the third-highest total by a Devil, and his 94 points came within two of Elias’ single-season club mark.

“I’ll remember this one, that’s for sure,” Brodeur said. “Going through the biggest injury I ever had in my career; the road to coming back to play; winning 552 – it was pretty cool. We had a great run and definitely a disappointing end in the playoffs. I felt awesome, and I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things, and get back working out. Like I said last year, I made a big commitment to get myself ready for the season, and the injury kind of got in the way. Hopefully I’ll do the same thing this summer and have a better season next year.”

Injury prevented Brian Rolston from having the season he was hoping for when he signed as a free agent last summer. Rolston, whose 14-year career began with the Devils in 1994-95, was limited to 64 games with an ankle sprain.

“To finish like we did is tough, no question,” Rolston said. “You obviously want to prepare and be at your best when you come back. You learn from whatever things took place, obviously you can’t change injuries. But, it was just one of those things that happened, and it was the first time I’ve had to deal with that in my career.”

Brendan Shanahan signed in January with the Devils as a free agent, and enjoyed his second stint in New Jersey. Originally drafted by the Devils in 1987, the future Hall-of-Famer had envisioned a different outcome, however.

“In the last couple weeks here, I had my lip split open, my chin split open, I got stitches in my eyelid and I got hit so hard in Game 6 that it actually knocked one of my false teeth out and I loved every minute of it,” Shanahan said. “My guess is, each thing occurring I, at the end of the night, drove home feeling so lucky that I was still able to do this and perform at a high level. I was really enjoying it, I just expected it to go a lot longer.”

A lower body injury forced Bryce Salvador out of the lineup for the final three games of the postseason.

"A lot of things happened this year for the team – a lot of great things," Salvador said. "We're not minimizing those things by any means, but I know I definitely didn't expect to be out (of the playoffs) this soon."

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