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Devils see Kings as mirror image, great challenge

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils know the Los Angeles Kings from what they've seen in their video sessions over the last couple of days, or what they can recall from those late nights staying up to watch them.

They've seen enough to see themselves in the Kings.

"You look at their forecheck. They're very aggressive on the forecheck," New Jersey forward Patrik Elias said. "They got some big bodies, big guys that play strong, physical hockey. You look in the back line. You have role players that know their roles. They roll four lines, they have skill players, and everybody is doing their job. Their goaltender has been awesome.

"We have a similar build to that team," he continued. "We have four lines that we're rolling and everybody's contributing. Our defense is doing their job. Marty [Brodeur] is doing better than ever, and he gives us a great opportunity to succeed."

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Elias is dead on.

Jonathan Quick and Brodeur may be separated by 14 years in age and NHL experience, but both have been lights out for their respective teams. New Jersey and Los Angeles both roll four lines and have three balanced defense pairs, complete with righty-lefty combinations on each one. Both teams attack with an aggressive and relentless forecheck.

"I don't think it's an accident that the teams that are rolling four lines and six 'D' are still playing," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I would bet (Kings coach Darryl Sutter) would say the same thing; it's been critical."

Without question, as similar as the Devils may be to the Kings, they are also aware that they won't know exactly what they're dealing with until the puck drops in Game 1 on Wednesday night at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

"They're impressive on tape," DeBoer added. "I'm looking forward to seeing them live and seeing exactly what we're dealing with."

For now, it's all about the past when it comes to Devils vs. Kings.

New Jersey hasn't faced Los Angeles since October -- when Terry Murray was still the coach, Drew Doughty was just getting back into playing shape after a contract battle, Jeff Carter was in Columbus, Dwight King and Jordan Nolan were in the AHL, and Simon Gagne was in the lineup, not worried that his next concussion would keep him out for more than five months.

A lot has changed since Oct. 25, when the Devils went into Staples Center and won 3-0.

Sutter is now the Kings coach and has brought offense back into their game. Doughty is back to being Doughty, one of the best blueliners in the game. Carter is on board. King and Nolan have been key contributors since being called up in February.

About the only thing that is the same about the Kings from the last time the Devils played them is Gagne is healthy and able to play. He was cleared to return to action, but probably won't play in Game 1.

"They look like they got some skill up front, they got big forwards," Devils center Travis Zajac said. "They got D-men that can jump in and play. They have Doughty, who is a skilled D-man who can make plays. They have a great goalie back there who has played well for them in the playoffs. It's going to be a difficult test for us."

"They're very aggressive on the forecheck. They got some big bodies, big guys that play strong, physical hockey. You look in the back line. You have role players that know their roles. They roll four lines, they have skill players, and everybody is doing their job."
-- Devils forward Patrik Elias on the Kings' style of play

To pass it, the Devils know they have to keep playing the team game that got them here; the one that was good enough to win a brutal seven-game series against Florida, to cruise past Philadelphia in five games and to win three straight against the Rangers to capture that series in six games.

They need more of the same from their fourth line of Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter -- a trio that has combined for 19 points in the playoffs. They need Ilya Kovalchuk to keep scoring at better than a point-per-game pace. Captain Zach Parise needs to pick up his scoring a bit without losing his sharp edge.

Most important, Brodeur has to continue to turn back the clock on his career. He has a 2.04 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in the playoffs.

"We have to be a team, that's what makes a difference," Kovalchuk told "The fourth line, third line, all the Ds, they all stepped up really big and that's what makes our team dangerous."

That's also what makes the Kings dangerous. The Devils have seen enough to know that.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Parise said. "We know how great of a team L.A. is."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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