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Staal, Hurricanes respect Devils' attack

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils – Zach Parise and Carolina center Eric Staal were only rookies back in 2005-06, when the Devils and Hurricanes last met in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

By then, they already had a history of facing one another in competition.

"I played against him when I was 10 years old," Staal said Wednesday morning. "He came up to Thunder Bay (Ontario) with his Minnesota team and they used to win the tournament and he used to get MVP and I would just sit there on the losing team. I’ve known him since I was young, and obviously from the draft. He’s a good player."

Parise was born three months ahead of Staal in 1984, and both have developed into the top goal-getters for their respective clubs. Staal was selected second overall by Carolina in 2003, while Parise went 17th overall to New Jersey.

Parise, a native of Minneapolis, notched 45 goals during the 2008-09 regular season after back-to-back campaigns of 30-or-more. Staal, a native of Thunder Bay, this season reached the 40-goal plateau for the second time in his first four years.

"He was good back then, too," Staal said of Parise. "It was fun, and it was usually his team against my team in the finals in Thunder Bay. He had a couple more guys on his team than we had, but it was fun. I was just as little as he was. I didn’t grow until I was 17, so I was just as small or smaller than he was at that age. We were two little guys."

Each figures to have a big impact on their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal that opens Wednesday at Prudential Center.

"He’s got a knack for scoring goals and a knack for competing in those areas," Staal said. "We’re definitely going to have to keep an eye on him this series because he’s one of their go-to guys that can bury one of those goals in those moments."

Staal doesn't feel he has to keep up with Parise on the series' scoresheet. Nineteen points separated the two players in the regular season – Parise had 94, while Staal finished with 75.

"It’s not going to be one guy that wins this series, obviously," Staal said. "There’s moments when you want to step up and get that goal – that winner or that tying goal – that just goes without saying for any offensive guy. The main thing is playing your game and not thinking about it; just letting it happen."  

• The Devils and Hurricanes have met three previous times in the postseason, and each time the winner has gone on to the Stanley Cup Finals.

New Jersey beat Carolina in the first round of the 2001 postseason and faced Colorado in the Finals. The Hurricanes topped the Devils in 2002 and lost to Detroit in the Finals, then edged the Devils again in 2006 before beating Edmonton for the first Stanley Cup championship in team history.

"I think it shows that you have two good teams," said Hurricanes' captain Rod Brind'Amour. "New Jersey’s one of those organizations that everyone tries to model themselves after just because they’re consistent. That’s what it is in today’s game, you have to be consistent over the long haul. They’ve been able to do that time after time."

• Carolina head coach Paul Maurice spoke to the media Wednesday morning:

Maurice on his strategies for the series:
Our team game is pretty simple. We’ve tried to be as good as defensive team as we possibly can be without giving up too much of what we like to think we’re good at, and that’s forcing the play in the offensive zone. I know it sounds cliché, but it’ll be a tight series so we have to be very careful with the number of mistakes that we make.

On Martin Brodeur
We’ve seen his act for a long time. He stops a lot of pucks and wins games. What we’ve learned, we’ve seen some great goaltenders come through this game – Dominik Hasek, Brodeur, Patrick Roy – the one thing you can’t allow is your offensive game to change because of the goaltender that’s in the net and try to find a different way to beat him, because there just isn’t. You just have to hope that you can be around the other team’s net and hope that you can squeak one by him.

On the Hurricanes' power play (7-for-16 vs. NJ in '08-09)
Sometimes you just get on a roll, and I think a lot of it had to do with the schedule. We caught them on back-to-back nights, and I think more than anything else, your special teams suffer a lot from that. You’re not quite as quick into the lanes. We would expect, and always felt that the defensive strength of the Devils also related to their penalty kill. We expect to see that tonight.

On the Devils' emphasis on an uptempo forecheck
The big difference in looking at this team from early on is that they used to be a real defensive-minded team. But their top two offensive lines are as good as anybody else’s – maybe better – and they’re young. So they’re going to be good for a long time and be able to score goals. We’re not going out into this game and trying to throw caution to the wind here and be all offensive all the time because we think that’s the way to beat them. This will be tightly-played both ways. We have confidence in our defensive game, but we also know that we’re going to have to be good defensively. They’re not a defensive sit-back team any more, at all. They want to forecheck and they want to be aggressive and they want their top six guys to get chances.

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