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Devils, Rangers ready for series opener

by Dave Lozo


Season Series: The Devils and Rangers split their six matchups, with almost all of them featuring enough bitterness to make a grapefruit envious. The Rangers technically won the season series by picking up a seventh point in a shootout loss, which came with backup Martin Biron getting a rare start in place of Henrik Lundqvist. In their final regular-season meeting, there was a six-man line brawl three seconds after the opening faceoff. There is no love lost between these teams, and it makes for riveting hockey.

Big Story: It's the sixth time these rivals will meet in the postseason since 1992 and third time since 2005-06. They met in the conference finals in 1994, with the Rangers rallying from a 3-2 series deficit to win the last two games. Eighteen years later, only Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur is around from that series and he also made an appearance against the Rangers in 1992. It may not carry the same cache as Flames-Oilers or Bruins-Canadiens, but Rangers-Devils is one of the most venomous rivalries in the NHL.

Team Scope:

Devils: The sixth-seeded Devils have had their fair share of rest since eliminating the Philadelphia Flyers in five games Tuesday. This is their first trip to the conference finals since 2003, and they come into Monday's game with six wins in their last seven playoff games.

Martin Brodeur turned 40 last week, but he's showing he still has a lot left in the tank. He has a 2.05 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in the postseason and is 7-2 with a 1.74 GAA and .933 save percentage since he was pulled from Game 3 of the conference quarterfinals against the Florida Panthers.

"Whatever I'm going to do in the next two weeks is what people will talk about," Brodeur said. "So that's just the nature of being still active in the NHL. And if I wasn't ready for it, I wouldn't be here. So I'm happy to be here. I'm happy to have the opportunity to try to move on to the Stanley Cup Final."

For Patrik Elias, the key to getting past the Rangers is not getting swept away by the hype of playing perhaps the Devils' biggest rival.

"We have to approach it the same as we approached it the last series," Elias said. "Just keep our mind straight on the job that we have today, that we want to do, we want to accomplish.  But it's good like that. It's going to be an exciting time in Madison Square Garden. There's not too many better buildings to play in. The fans are great. And I'm sure we're going to get a lot of our fans coming to this building for our game. So we're looking forward to it."

Rangers: After the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994, the Devils responded with a Cup of their own the following season and two more since. There was a time when the Devils owned the Rangers, but the tide has turned since Henrik Lundqvist burst onto the scene.

Lundqvist, who is a finalist for both the Vezina and Hart Trophies, has dominated the Devils in his career to the tune of a 25-11-5 record, 1.79 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in 41 regular-season games.

"There's a lot of things that makes this series special," Lundqvist told reporters Sunday at the Rangers' practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. "Everybody is looking forward to it, and we're very excited that we are there (in the conference finals). We're going to do whatever we can here in order to be at our best."

Just like the Devils, the Rangers don't want to let their emotions get the best of them against a team they openly hate.

"We talk about being one of the four teams playing, (the players) need to embrace that because it's hard to get there," coach John Tortorella told reporters. "So I want them to embrace that. But I just hope the team is not too interested in getting caught up in all the sideshows as far as Jersey-New York Rangers. I think it's great for the area, don't get me wrong, but we have to concentrate on who we are and what we have to do to win some hockey games."

Who's Hot: This series features the two leading scorers among the four teams remaining in the playoffs. New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk is third with 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) while New York's Brad Richards is fourth with 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists). The Flyers' Claude Giroux and Danny Briere rank first and second in points.

Injury Report: The well-rested Devils are injury-free. … The Rangers will be without forwards Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) and Mats Zuccarello (wrist) for Game 1.

Stat Pack: Since the 1994 conference finals, the Devils have won 99 playoff games while the Rangers have won 39. However, and this includes coaches with multiple stints, the Rangers have had 8 coaches since that series while the Devils have had 13.

Puck Drop: "Can we have a copy of that book?  You know more than us, apparently." -- Devils captain Zach Parise, when asked if the book on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is to shoot high

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