2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs Blog - Conference Quarter-finals
Sure, the Devils opened the playoffs at home last year. But it was against the New York Rangers, which meant that half of the fans at the Prudential Center wore the enemy jersey.
"I'm sure everybody here is excited to finally play a home playoff game for real," goalie Martin Brodeur said after Tuesday's late practice. "Not a split crowd."
It will be a big difference in Game 1 against the Hurricanes Wednesday night.
"Not playing a road playoff game? Yeah," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "That's definitely something that's been good all year."
Playing at home in front of so many Rangers jerseys was a sore point with the Devils last April.
"You're playing a team not across the river from you," coach Brent Sutter said. "You're playing a very good hockey team, but you're not sitting there with half the building being opposition fans. That's certainly different than last year."
Holik out for Game 1, Rupp in
Centre Bobby Holik, who was a healthy scratch in the final two games of the regular season, won't play in Game 1.
"Right now we don't want to take anybody else out of the lineup," Sutter said. "Rolie (Brian Rolston) and Clarkie (David Clarkson) have played well together the last two games."
Holik has chosen not to comment on the situation. On Monday he said: "I have no comment. There's nothing to say. I just show up and go out there when they tell me to."
The Devils will start Mike Rupp at left wing on a line with Rolston at centre and Clarkson at right wing.
New Jersey's other line combinations will be: Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus and Brian Gionta; and Jay Pandolfo, John Madden and Brendan Shanahan.
Sutter feels the Devils are ready.
"Last year we went into the playoffs and weren't at the level we needed to be at," he said. "That's maybe why I harped on things the last month here. I think the last week or 10 days we really started finding our way again. This year we're going in with a different makeup and different mindset."
Havelid key piece to Devils’ defence
Niclas Havelid, acquired from the Atlanta Thrashers just before the trade deadline, remains a key part of the Devils' defence and power play. That means Andy Greene is the odd man out on the blue-line.
"I'm not disappointed," Green insisted. "Obviously you want to be out there when it starts. I can say I'm pretty happy with the way I've been playing. I have to stay positive and be ready.
"Hopefully this is a long run and things are going to happen. You have to stay focused and keep your head in it."
Havelid is paired with Bryce Salvador. He is also a point man on the second power-play unit, along with Rolston. The Devils worked a lot on the power play in Tuesday's practice.
Other defence pairings for Game 1: Colin White and Mike Mottau; and Johnny Oduya and Paul Martin.
Shanahan at 40: Going for a fourth ring
What will Brendan Shanahan bring to the Devils in this year's playoffs?
"Leadership. Experience," Sutter said. "He's been there a lot as far as his career is concerned. That's important, not just on the ice, but in the dressing room. That's huge."
Shanahan's first post-season was back in 1988 with the Devils.
"My first shift in my first playoff series I broke my stick over some Islander’s back," Shanahan recalled. "Andy Van Hellemond didn't give me a penalty. He put his hand on my back and said, 'Relax young man.' I've always liked him since then."
Asked if he feels the pressure of being counted on by a team that hasn't gotten past the second round since 2003, Shanahan said: "I think I’m one of many veterans on this team who will, at different times, be counted on."
Martin Brodeur on his rematch with Cam Ward
They last faced each other in the 2006 playoffs when Cam Ward, a Hurricanes rookie, outplayed Martin Brodeur. Ward went on to win the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy.
But it's a lot different for both players this time around. Ward hasn't been back to the playoffs since winning in 2006 and Brodeur feels a lot more pressure as the years go by.
Both are Stanley Cup champions, however.
"My first year I didn't win," Brodeur recalled of 1994, when the Devils lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final to the Rangers in overtime. "I came close to getting to the finals. The second year I won and the third year I didn't make the playoffs. It took me until 2000 to get back (to winning a Cup).
"It's all expectations. I remember in '95 and even in '94 I was just playing. I was the young guy. Everybody was older and had experience. When you're young, everything goes right past your head. When you're older, there are responsibilities, your salary, everybody expects you to do what you're supposed to do. When you do it, like Cam did it and I've done it, the expectations are there. So the pressure builds up a little bit. But the market you play in makes a big difference also."
The Devils are using their regular-season finish (2-0 and four of their last five) as motivation. Carolina lost its last two games.
"You have to use everything to your advantage," Brodeur suggested. "They lost the last two games in the regular season. They've had a few days off. Put a little doubt in their minds. That's head games. You hear people try to get in each other's heads. You hear organizations do that a lot.
“We try to use everything we have to get something of an advantage on a team. But they're a bunch of veterans. They've done well in the past in the playoffs, especially against us. We're definitely aware of that. So we have to get off to a good start and put some doubt in their minds."
Welcome to the hotel, New Jersey
The Devils, one of the first teams to stay in a hotel the night before playoff games, started that practice Tuesday night.
"Once I get in the rhythm of it, it's fine." Langenbrunner said. "I don't dislike it. I don't like being away from my family all the time, but I do like the ability to just focus on hockey. It can be helpful if you use it the right way. If you use it in a negative way, it could be the opposite."
Players usually take in a movie and then retire early. Jay Pandolfo and Martin Brodeur often go to the movies together.
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