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Eastern Conference Finals head to New Jersey

by Mike G. Morreale


(Best-of-seven series tied 1-1)


Big Story: The Devils return to Prudential Center for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Rangers; they've won four of five playoff games at home this spring, including their last three. The Devils evened the series with their cross-river rival on Wednesday with a 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden when David Clarkson deflected a shot past Henrik Lundqvist 2:31 into the third period to snap a 2-2 tie. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur earned his 108th playoff victory with 23 saves while Lundqvist took the loss for the Rangers despite 24 stops.

Team Scope:

Rangers: For the third straight playoff series, the Blueshirts are 1-1 after two games. The Rangers actually led 2-1 until late in the second period, when Marian Gaborik's turnover led to Ryan Carter's tip-in from the left hash with 1:51 left in the period. Angered Rangers coach John Tortorella sat Gaborik for the opening 12 minutes of the final period before finally giving him a shift.

"It would have been big [to go into the third period up 2-1]," Gaborik told the media after the game. "I just have to do a better job there on the second goal. We had some momentum and they took over. I have to do a better job on the wall. It's a series. We just have to come back into their building and play better."

Gaborik has four goals, 10 points and a plus-3 rating in 16 playoff games for the Rangers this spring.

Devils: The Devils are 6-1 in playoff series in which they've split the first two games on the road, including 2-0 this spring. Expect coach Pete DeBoer to keep the lines he used in Game 2 when he placed left wing Zach Parise back with center Travis Zajac and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk and had left wing Petr Sykora back with center Patrik Elias and right wing Dainius Zubrus. That dropped Alexei Ponikarovsky back to the third line, with center Adam Henrique and right wing Clarkson.

During the regular season, the Devils won two of the three games against the Rangers in Newark, but one of the two victories came in a shootout; Lundqvist didn't play in that game.

"We have built some momentum," Brodeur said. "And now, we have to try to take that into our building and make our building a tough place to play."

Who's Hot: Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky had an assist in Game 2 and has a goal and five points in the last five games. He had two goals and eight points in 22 regular-season games after coming over from Minnesota.

Injury Report: The Rangers' Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) and Mats Zuccarello (broken wrist) remain out. … New Jersey's Jacob Josefson (wrist) and Henrik Tallinder (leg) are skating but remain out.

Stat Pack: Rangers rookie left wing Chris Kreider scored a power-play goal on Wednesday to tie the NHL record for most playoff goals (four) and points (six) by a player who has never appeared in a regular-season game. … The Rangers' defense has scored 10 goals; no other team has more than five from its D.

Puck Drop: Rangers fans often flood the Prudential Center when their team goes across the Hudson River. The Devils are doing everything they can to make sure the lion's share of the 17,625 fans who will fill the building are wearing red, not blue.

New Jersey's players are also hoping for a bigger home-ice edge.

"During the regular season, if we were to get scored on, then you see [the Ranger fans] all cheering, and I think they cheer extra loud when they're in our building," Parise said. "That's when you realize how many Ranger fans we have in our building. But hopefully there won't be too many blue jerseys in the stands for these two home games."

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