WEST ORANGE, N.J. (AP) -Losing three of four regular-season games to Tampa Bay doesn't seem to concern the New Jersey Devils as they prepare to face the Lightning in the first round of the playoffs.
It's something to correct, John Madden said Tuesday after the Devils practiced for Thursday's Game 1 at the Continental Airlines Arena.
"You remember it, you learn and you try not to make those same mistakes," Madden said in looking at the matchup between the second-seeded Devils and the seventh-seeded Lightning. "You take the videos and break them down and see what's going on, the matchups and everything.
"At the same time, this is the playoffs and for the lack of a better cliche, it's another season, and here we go," Madden said.
Madden and linemates Jay Pandolfo and Erik Rasmussen will draw one of the tougher defensive assignments whenever Vincent Lacavalier and Martin St. Louis are on the ice. Lacavalier had 52 goals and 108 points and St. Louis had 43 goals and 102 points.
"They try to get them out there in all situations," Madden said. "If they haven't been on the ice in a while they'll throw them out there to kill penalties. Anytime you can have your best players on the ice, it's a good thing for any hockey club."
Tampa Bay outscored the Devils 9-7 in winning three times, including once in a shootout.
New Jersey, however, had the stronger finish, going 6-1-1 in its last eight games. Tampa Bay was 5-6-1 in its last 12 and slipped from the No. 6 seed to the seventh spot.
Devils center Scott Gomez doesn't think either team can consider itself the favorite in the best-of-7 series.
"This is going to be one of the better series," Gomez said. "If things added up the way they should, this should be a seven-game series. While we struggled a little bit against these guys, every game we were right in it until the end. It was one mistake at the end, for both sides. You could not have matched up two more even teams for a two-seven series."
After struggling in the second half of the season with injuries, the Devils appear healthy heading into the postseason. Brian Gionta, Patrik Elias and Madden have returned from groin injuries, and veteran defenseman Richard Matvichuk played his first game on Sunday after being sidelined with a yearlong back injury.
Devils coach Lou Lamoriello was not sure whether Matvichuk would play on Thursday, noting the second game coming back from an injury is usually the toughest.
If Matvichuk can't play, rookie Andy Greene will be in the lineup.
"We know what we need to do to win games," Gionta said. "We have a lot of experience in the room. There is no one I'd rather go into the playoffs with than this team. There are a lot of veterans who have been here before and young guys with a lot of taste."