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Task for Devils is simple: Survive

by Shawn P. Roarke /

NEWARK, N.J. -- Nothing changes for these New Jersey Devils until they are told they can't play any more this season.

Each day, they show up at the appointed time at the appropriate place -- be it for practice, game or team function -- with the singular focus of extending the campaign one more day.

"We just want to win Game 5, That's all we can control," Devils captain Zach Parise said at the morning skate Saturday before Game 5 at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).

Likely, if Parise or any of the other Devils that took part in the morning skate were asked, they would be hard-pressed to name the day of the week. Two months into the grind of chasing the Stanley Cup, days of the week and dates of the month no longer matter.

It is only about the next hurdle that has to be cleared to stay in the race to 16 wins.


"Especially in the playoffs, you don't go by days of the week anymore," Parise said. "Game 1, Game 2 and that's it. That's how you approach it. Every day is the same for us and it all ties together for us. It all goes by pretty quickly. It's kind of hard to believe it's the Final, feels like playoffs just started."

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are far closer to being finished than starting -- especially for the Devils. They have no room for error. Down three games to one in the series, the Devils will receive the order to stop playing with a loss Saturday. A win only guarantees a reprieve -- another cross-country flight to continue the airport-hotel-rink-hotel-rink-airport routine for another two days.

They don't care about the weight of history that suggests they can't finish the trek to three more wins before the Kings find a way to eke out just a solitary victory. They don't care that no team in seven decades has forced even a Game 6 in the Stanley Cup Final after falling behind 3-0. They don't care that only one team in the Stanley Cup Final has ever won a Cup by navigating past a three-game pothole.

They don't care that the Kings had only lost two of 17 games before the Game 4 loss Wednesday and now must lose four straight to not claim the Stanley Cup for the first time.

The Devils just care that they have been given the gift of extending their season another day. They plan to cherish that gift.

"We're just concerned with Game 5," the captain said.

So, what will it take to win Game 5? Execution appears to be the answer.


Devils try to keep Cup hopes alive at home

By John Kreiser - Colunnist
The Devils knew they'd be coming home after Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. They were delighted that the Los Angeles Kings also had to make the trip. The Devils spoiled the party in L.A. on Wednesday and extended the Stanley Cup Final with a 3-1 win. READ MORE ›

"I think, you know, probably what's going to decide this game, like all the games, is execution, who executes, who can finish a play, get a goal, who can score on the power play, who can execute the best all over the ice," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's not one thing. You get to this point, you've got two good teams that play good in all three zones. It's who executes the best."

Added Parise: "It comes down to whoever makes the fewest mistakes."

Can the Devils do that? Can they execute against a team that is an incredible 10-0 on the road this postseason?

Likely, it will take more execution from the top line of Parise, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk to make a Game 6 happen. The Devils have just four goals in the first four games and the only contribution from the top line has been Kovalchuk's empty-netter to seal Game 4.

Parise understands that pressure and welcomes it, just as he welcomed the opportunity to wake up Saturday morning with the privilege of playing in another Stanley Cup Playoff game.

He has faith that his line will respond.

"I do, I really do," Parise said. "The opportunities are there, they're just not going in. We're not executing and that is the difference.

"Trust me, we would all love to be racking up the points right now, but I think we are doing other things well and that is how we judge our game. It's always a bonus and always better if you can score and end up on the score sheet. We are doing other things away from the puck."

But, for DeBoer, there is no doubt that his top line -- especially Parise -- will lead the Devils in their quest to extend this series yet again.

"Zach's game is so much more than the stat line; he's the heartbeat of our team," the coach said. "He's the identity of our team. He forechecks, he backchecks, he kills penalties, plays in all situations. He really is our barometer. He's the guy that makes us go, whether he's scoring or not.

"Again, I don't measure his game on goals and assists. He's creating opportunities. They're eventually going to go in. He's had these type of situations before. It's tough out there right now for anybody to score. But I'm not concerned about his game. I know it's going to come."

And, if it does come in Game 5, the Devils hope it translates into the opportunity to see it again in another two games after this.

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