NEWARK, N.J. -- There was certainly no place like home for a few of the New Jersey Devils' veterans on the eve prior to Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday.
According to coach Jacques Lemaire, an unexpected change in team policy enabled players the option of going home rather than spend the night in a hotel on Thursday. The Devils defeated the Flyers, 5-3, on Friday and will travel to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Tuesday. The series is tied, 1-1.
Players had always been required to spend the night prior to a home playoff game in a hotel. The time-honored tradition did allow players to go home on nights after a home playoff game. The players were required to remain at the hotel on Tuesday night prior to Game 1 of the series opener on Wednesday.
But that all changed on Thursday when most players, including captain Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rolston, Zach Parise
and goalie Martin Brodeur
, opted for their own beds. When he played for the Dallas Stars, Langenbrunner admitted players were given the option to stay in the hotel or return home on the night before a home playoff game.
"I gave my opinion on this subject at the end of last year but I have no bearing on the change," Langenbrunner said. "I'm sure it was a management decision and it did its desired effect. I think it gave a breakup of the same old thing and the rut that we seemed to have gotten in of not playing so well and not getting results. Some guys went and some stayed (at the hotel). I'm sure it will continue."
Brodeur joked with the media following his team's morning skate at Prudential Center on Saturday, claiming he almost woke up at noon Thursday and drove to the hotel. The Devils held a practice on Thursday at 3 p.m.
"We begged for it for so long that we didn't even think about asking anymore, but I think you have to put it in perspective," Brodeur said. "It's not going to happen every time. They had a feeling and went with it. Guys appreciate having the option to do it and it's nice that they know we're responsible enough to go home and get your rest. But it's early in the playoffs. I don't know that, if in Round 2 or 3, families and friends are more involved in the playoffs because there's less and less teams and it gets more important. It's important for us to have our heads where they need to be."
Brodeur, who slept in his own bed on the night before a playoff game for the first time in his 16 seasons, felt having the option was nice and did break the monotony.
"I remember in 1994-95, going to the hotel after games. Only guys who were married and had kids, at one point, had a window to do something," he said. "This is a lot different. It's a big sacrifice nowadays. It doesn't last long if you don't play long, but you want to make sure you last as long as you can (in the playoffs)."
Lemaire admitted the organization discussed the issue as a group.
"I remember when I played, the only time you went home was if you win in four and had to wait for the other group," he said. "That's tough to do today. It's more seven games today.
"I understand why they don't like staying at a hotel -- I don't know if they don't like it. It depends how you think, how much you want to sacrifice because it is a sacrifice to go in the hotel. On the other hand, they might go there and think too much about the playoffs. You go (to the hotel) to rest, get proper sleep, but if they think going doesn't permit you to achieve that, you might as well stay home."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org