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Home ice now favors Hurricanes

by John McGourty
It's mission accomplished for the Carolina Hurricanes.

The lower-seeded team has to win at least one game in the higher seed's building to be able to win a seven-game series. The Hurricanes did just that Friday night, beating New Jersey 2-1 in overtime. If the 'Canes can win all three games in the RBC Center, the Devils will go home and the Hurricanes will go on.

Every time these two teams have met in the playoffs, the winner has gone to the Stanley Cup Final. Carolina lost the Final to Detroit in 2002 but beat Edmonton in 2006. The Devils won the series in 2001 and lost to Colorado in the Final.

Not only have the Hurricanes found the winning formula against the Devils, there are two other important factors in their favor. The home team gets to see the visitor's choice of lines before every faceoff and then put out the players they want against them.

In New Jersey, the Hurricanes' top line of Eric Staal, Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu was frustrated by the Devils' checking line of John Madden, Jay Pandolfo and Brendan Shanahan. In Raleigh, coach Paul Maurice is sure to avoid having his stars playing against the big, experienced checking line of the Devils.

Also, Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner hyperextended his knee while taking a shot and left the game with five minutes remaining in the second period. He did not return. Devils coach Brent Sutter said the team will know more about the extent of the injury and Langenbrunner's availability on Saturday.

"We haven't enjoyed having him on the ice over the past 10 years," Maurice said. "He's a really good player and he's one of the players that really is a New Jersey Devil. That being said, they have a really good alternative when Brian Rolston comes in and they've got good players to fill those holes.

"One of the things that we've all admired about New Jersey over the years is their ability to lose a good player and plug somebody in and away they go. That said, your top-end guys are your top-end guys. … Clearly, he is a great player."

Sutter obviously didn't like the outcome of Game 2 but he was hardly rattled, exhibiting the same careful, methodical thinking as he did when he won Game 1.

"You have to win on the road in playoffs," he said with a shrug. "We have nothing to feel bad about. We played hard here tonight against a very good hockey team. We saw a more physical team tonight, which we anticipated and expected. You lose home ice, but you've got to go down there and get it back. If you want to have success, you've got to win on the road, too."

The odds say that a team that wins Game 2 in a Stanley Cup Playoff series wins the series 70 percent of the time. That's math theory. This is hockey, and hockey players -- not odds, not math -- will determine the outcome of the series.

Both teams are now confident in their ability to win and both are a little bruised and battered. One thing both teams agree on: They know they're in a battle.
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