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Devils face Stadium Series goalie decision

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer wouldn't mind a few snowflakes in the forecast for his team's showdown with the New York Rangers on Sunday at Yankee Stadium in the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC).

The game is the fourth between the Metropolitan Division rivals this season, with the Devils having won the previous three by a combined 11-5.

In addition to having visions of snowflakes falling on the infield ice at Yankee Stadium, the third-year Devils coach also has a big decision to make Saturday when his team practices at the iconic ballpark.

Who will be his starting goalie against the Rangers, Martin Brodeur or Cory Schneider?

DeBoer acknowledged after a 2-1 victory against the Washington Capitals on Friday that each has played well this season.

"It's a tough decision and that's a credit to both these players" DeBoer said. "I will make a decision first thing [Saturday]. But it just shows the type of professionals both guys are; they've handled this so well all year long."

Schneider is 9-9-7 after making 30 saves Friday. He is 5-1-2 with an 0.96 goals-against average, one shutout and .961 save percentage in his past eight starts dating to Dec. 28. Brodeur is 13-10-4 with a 2.36 GAA and .905 save percentage.

Schneider, asked if he felt he deserved the start based on his play of late, proved his loyalty as a teammate. In fact, one got the feeling he would like to see Brodeur get the start.

"It's not as if Marty isn't playing well; he's played well," Schneider said. "I know the coaches want to keep him in the rotation and keep him sharp. There's a lot of hockey left. One way or another, it doesn't matter to us."

Schneider ranks second in the NHL with a 1.88 GAA, behind Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild (1.65).

"It's a special game and Marty has been a big part of this organization," Schneider said. "He's gotten a lot of wins for us this year, so whether [DeBoer] picks him or me, I don't think it changes the way we feel about it. We both trust each other and respect the way we're playing. If he chooses me, it's great, but this is a game that would probably mean a lot to Marty having never played an outdoor game in his career. I'm sure he would really enjoy it."

Brodeur's next victory against the Rangers will be the 50th of his career. He is 49-30-5 with 15 ties and nine shutouts in 99 regular-season games.

"I know Marty really gets fired up for these games [against the Rangers], as he does for all games, but there's also great tradition here with the two teams with some of the games they've played and some of the playoff series they've had," DeBoer said.

DeBoer said he's hoping for something similar to what players and coaches for the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs experienced in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1.

"I played a lot of outdoor hockey as a youngster and there's nothing like it," DeBoer said. "It's going to be a fantastic experience and everyone is really looking forward to it. I'm hoping the conditions are such that it's little bit like the Winter Classic in Michigan where the snow was flying and it's cold.

"Looking at the forecast, we've got a chance for that, and that would be great."

The fact the Devils and Rangers are in hot pursuit a Stanley Cup Playoff berth in the Eastern Conference will make for an intense environment among players and fans.

"That's actually a good situation for us," Devils wing Damien Brunner said. "We have to win every game or try to get points out of every game. It's a huge challenge and we have to be mentally ready; everyone has to show up on Sunday and play as a group. I feel if we keep playing as a four-line team and not just a one- or two-line club, we'll be good. It's all about supporting each other."

Devils center Stephen Gionta, who lately has been centering the feisty fourth line between Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier, said his father, Sam, is really looking forward to seeing the game live at Yankee Stadium.

"I'm a [Boston] Red Sox fan but dad is a Yankees fan, so it'll be pretty cool for him to come in and watch the game at the Stadium," Gionta said. "It doesn't matter what type of baseball fan you are though, Yankee Stadium is a historic venue and the organization has so much history. It's going to be a fun event."

Gionta said this will be the first competitive hockey game he's played outdoors. Growing up in Rochester, N.Y., Gionta had many opportunities to play with friends and family on nearby ponds in the winter.

"When I played at Boston College, coach [Jerry] York used to take us to an outdoor rink once a year for a practice in the Boston area," he said. "It was at the top of a hill so there was nothing blocking the wind and it was freezing. But we dealt with it and enjoyed it."

Travis Zajac said he expects a playoff intensity, no matter what the temperature happens to be at puck drop. The Rangers and Devils have been separated by two goals or fewer in 17 of the past 24 games.

"These are playoff games every time we play against each other and no matter where the game might be," Zajac said. "Especially now since we only play them just five times a year. They're special games and we're both battling right now to make the playoffs."

Zajac acknowledged how much he's looking forward to playing outdoors in the Bronx.

"It's going to be amazing," he said. "We've watched the games the past few years and we've always talked about being a part of something like that, and now to get the chance to play, not only outside, but against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium. It'll be a fun event and I'm definitely going to enjoy it."


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