By Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer
When the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings last faced off, the 2011-12 NHL season wasn't even a month old. Darryl Sutter was still months away from replacing Terry Murray as the Kings coach and the Devils were in the early stages of figuring out what kind of team they had coming off their first season of not making the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 15 years.
Now they're set to renew acquaintances with the Stanley Cup on the line.
Three nights after Dustin Penner advanced the Kings to just the second Stanley Cup Final berth in their history, rookie Adam Henrique ensured they would be coming to New Jersey to face the Devils after he scored off a goal-mouth scramble 63 seconds into overtime in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Rangers on Friday night.
Game 1 takes place Wednesday night at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS). Game 2 is Saturday night at Prudential Center before it switches to Los Angeles for Game 3 next Monday.
"We're down to the last two teams in the League," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "Their record speaks for itself, who they've beat and how they've beaten them speaks for itself. I feel we've beaten some pretty good teams. I've told you my thoughts on the Rangers and how good a team they are, so we're looking forward to the challenge."
The Devils and Kings met twice in the span of less than two weeks in October, with New Jersey sweeping and backup Johan Hedberg earning both victories.
Hedberg came on in relief when Martin Brodeur tweaked his shoulder in the Oct. 13 game at Prudential Center and was perfect, stopping 16 shots and two shootout attempts in a 2-1 win. He got the start in Los Angeles on Oct. 25 and picked up his first shutout of the season, stopping all 31 shots he faced.
Getting shut out was a regular occurrence for the Kings through most of the regular season, as they finished with the League's 29th-ranked offense. But they're averaging nearly three goals per game in the playoffs, and will bring a perfect 8-0 road record with them to the Garden State.
Los Angeles has lost just twice in recording series wins against the top three seeds in the Western Conference -- Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix -- while New Jersey dispatched of the East's top seed in New York after also ousting Florida and Philadelphia.
"You know, we're in the Stanley Cup Final for a reason," Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "They were really good on the road all playoffs long, but I don't think they faced a team like us yet. It's nice we start at home and I think that's going to be a big advantage for us."