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On brink of elimination, Devils hold calm team meeting @NHL

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Facing elimination at the hands of the Ottawa Senators, the New Jersey Devils held your basic team meeting Friday before heading out to practice.

They went over the plan for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the Continental Airlines Arena on Saturday night and reviewed what went wrong in losing three of the first four games.

There was no yelling and screaming. Nothing was thrown. No one was called out. And most assuredly, no one got up and did a Mark Messier, guaranteeing a Devils' win.

That's just not this team. This is a group that has nine players that have played on at least two Stanley Cup champions and five others who have won the Cup at least once. They know what to do, and guaranteeing a win isn't one of them.

"Messier messed it up for us a few years back with that guarantee thing," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur quipped. "People always expect things like that from leaders. But at the end of the day, especially in a situation like that, there's not much to be said.

"If you're not ready for a situation like that, you shouldn't belong in the game," he added. "You have to get yourself ready and you shouldn't need anyone to say things."

To a man, the Devils know what went wrong in losing games by margins of 5-4, 2-0 and 3-2.

To start, New Jersey hasn't put enough pressure on Ray Emery. While the Senators goaltender has allowed only four goals in the last three games, he has given up a lot of tantalizing rebounds that the Devils didn't convert into goals.

Emery was involved in a minor traffic accident with his limited-edition Hummer on the way to the airport Friday, causing him to miss the team's charter flight to New Jersey, according to The Canadian Press. He was expected to take a commercial flight and join the team later Friday night.

The Devils have also given Ottawa way too much room in center ice. The Senators' shot total has been the 30s in recent games, something defensive-minded New Jersey rarely allows in the regular season.

Even Brodeur has faltered. He gave up two weak goals in the 3-2 loss in Game 4 on Wednesday.

"I have to be the best I can be," Brodeur said after the Devils practiced for 30 minutes at the Codey Arena in West Orange. "I have to be the best player out there. We have to have that attitude if we want to move on."

Devils center Scott Gomez described the team meeting as normal. The players and coach "went over stuff." They talked about playing hard, focusing on every shift and being opportunistic. A lucky bounce or two wouldn't hurt either, he said.

There was no rah-rah stuff.

"Everyone has been through that," Gomez said. "Enough has been said. We have to take it over to the ice. Everyone is ready. Everyone cares for each other. We don't want the party to end. We know the position we are in. We just have to go tomorrow and lay it all out."

Captain Patrik Elias said this Devils team isn't like the one that rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia in 2000 en route to winning the Stanley Cup.

Coach Larry Robinson motivated that group with a "trust me" speech moments after the Game 4 loss and Claude Lemieux told anyone on the team who didn't believe that New Jersey was going to win to take a hike.

"You look around and we have a lot of guys who have been through situations and we know what to do," Elias said. "We just have to get the point across to the guys who haven't been in this situation so they can handle it."

Coach Lou Lamoriello didn't sound like he had any major lineup changes planned for Game 5. He said little has separated the two teams in the series and he believes the Devils know what to do to win.

"You have to believe in who you are and what you are and what you have," Lamoriello said. "Our feeling is we have to execute. But I believe in that group in that room. I believe they have the abilities to get it done and win."

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