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Foster not surprised by Ducks' turnaround

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Kurtis Foster's stay in Anaheim wasn't a long one, but he's still looking forward to facing his former team when the Devils host the Ducks on Friday.

The Devils (32-20-4) snapped a two-game skid and strengthened their hold on a playoff spot with Tuesday's 4-1 win in Buffalo. Sixth in the East, New Jersey leads ninth-place Washington by seven points.

"You always get a little more revved up because it is a team you were a part of," Foster said Thursday. "But I've been part of a couple of teams now, whether it's Minnesota or Tampa or Edmonton – you get fired up. Also, it's a time of the year when games are so important. We're fighting to get up in the standings, and they're fighting to get close to the [playoff] standings, so it's going to be a battle."

Foster was acquired along with goaltending prospect Timo Pielmeier on Dec. 12 in exchange for Rod Pelley, Mark Fraser and a seventh-round pick at this year's Draft.

He tallied a goal and an assist in nine games with the Ducks, but has had a more significant role in New Jersey, where he's contributed three goals and nine assists in 27 games, including two power-play markers.

"It's always fun to play against friends, but I didn't spend too much time there so it's not going to be that big of a game [personally]," Foster said. "But still, you want to beat the team that traded you away, for sure."

Foster spoke highly of Saku Koivu, whose brother Mikko was a teammate in Minnesota, and of Teemu Selanne, who just tied Brendan Shanahan for 12th all-time with 656 goals.

"[Saku] was great to me at the beginning helping me get used to everything," Foster said. "Teemu's just an awesome guy. He's an ambassador for the game, he's amazing. He's in great shape, takes care of himself and he's amazing to watch every day. He's probably one of the nicest guys I've ever played with.

"Those are definitely guys that you want to say hello to, but you definitely don't want to give them a win. Hopefully they go home not feeling too good, but you can say hello after the game."

Both 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, the Devils and Ducks represent two of the League's hottest clubs. Anaheim, which got off to a 7-13-4 start under coach Randy Carlyle, has gone 17-11-5 under Bruce Boudreau, who replaced Carlyle on Nov. 30.

"They're a good team," said Devils coach Peter DeBoer. "They had a slow start… but you knew they were a better team than where their record was. Over the last few years, they've been in the mix with the best teams in the League at different points."

The Ducks (24-24-9) entered Thursday's action six points behind Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the West.

"At the beginning of the year, even though I wasn't playing much, you're always in the room, around the guys," Foster recalled. "Guys were almost out of words to explain what was going on. Nobody understood because of the players we had, and the talent we had."

Their arsenal includes reigning MVP Corey Perry and talented New Jersey native Bobby Ryan. Add to that the goaltending of Jonas Hiller, who's 6-2-3 against the Eastern Conference, with a 2.31 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

Hiller made 25 saves in the Ducks' 2-1 win at Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

"They're playing great," Foster said. "Ever since Bruce took over, it took them awhile to get going, but the last 20 games or so, they're playing really well. They have great players, they have great forwards, good D and a good goalie. You knew it was a matter of time before they got things changed around."

Foster made one appearance in five games under Boudreau, but could see the difference made by the ex-Caps coach.

"It was just a different voice in the room," Foster explained. "Randy was a very tough coach, hard to play for. He expected a lot, and Bruce is a little more of a players' coach, easy to talk to. The guys liked the change and it seems to be working, so good for them."

He added: "Even with where they are in the standings, you've got to be prepared to play because they're a big, strong, tough, very skilled team that makes you bring your best."

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