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NEWS

Devils ready for Game 1 vs. Rangers

Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 4:05 PM / News
By Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com Staff Writer
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Devils ready for Game 1 vs. Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- For the first time in five days, the New Jersey Devils began practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Sunday afternoon with the benefit of full disclosure.

In order to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in eight seasons, New Jersey will have to eliminate the rival New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals slated to begin Monday with Game 1 at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"We know where we're at and what's at stake," Devils forward Patrik Elias said. "We've had our share of disappointments in the past, missing the playoffs last season, but, for me, it's been a while to be in this position. We're focused, loose and enjoying the moment. You have to have a special group to get this far and I believe we have that here."

The Rangers have won four of the previous five playoff series between the teams -- New Jersey earned a four-game sweep in the conference quarterfinals in 2006. The only other time the teams met in the conference finals was 1994, when Stephane Matteau's goal in the second overtime of Game 7 against Martin Brodeur gave the Rangers the victory.

"The key against the Rangers is getting pucks by [Henrik] Lundqvist … they're a very defensive team," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "They pressure you all over the ice but they do break down from time to time and he's there to bail them out. So we've got to get some pucks by him."

The Rangers are a much different type of opponent than the Devils have already faced in the playoffs. The offenses for the Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers looked to finesse their way into the offensive zone and that played right into New Jersey's hands, particularly against the Flyers in the conference semifinals.

The Rangers have proven to be quite the defensive juggernaut in these playoffs, allowing just 1.86 goals-per game in 14 matches. They've also allowed 28.4 shots-per game; New Jersey has yielded 27.4 shots over 12 playoff contests.

The biggest discrepancy between the clubs is the offensive firepower displayed in the playoffs. The Devils have averaged three goals per game and the Rangers are hitting at a 2.07 goals-per game clip.

When playing five-aside, no team in the playoffs has scored more goals than the Devils (24). The Rangers have connected for 19 goals playing 5-on-5.

"Playing five-aside is our strength and it's been that way through both [previous] series," Parise said. "It's going to be important when we get possession of the puck in the zone, to not throw it away or necessarily look for a play right away, because they come back and collapse pretty low and put five guys right in front of the net.

"They're waiting for you to turn it over so they can jump up into the rush," Parise continued. "For us, we have to protect the puck well in the offensive zone."

The Rangers, meanwhile, are tops among the four remaining playoff teams in blocked shots (267); the Devils have 131.

"I think it's a matter of our defense getting shots off quickly," Parise said. "I think when you find you wind up for those big slappers, that gives them time to get into the lane and block shots. If they can get the shots off quickly, their forwards play pretty low, so getting them off quickly will benefit us. Get it past the first guy and giving our forwards a way to get the puck back if it's not going to get on net.

"I don't think it changes our game plan or mentality though. A lot of teams block shots nowadays and you just have to find ways through it."

Here were the line combinations during Devils practice on Sunday:

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk

Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson

Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus

Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Extras: Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson

Extras: Matt Taormina - Peter Harrold

Martin Brodeur

Johan Hedberg

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 64 41 18 5 172 142 87
2 NYR 63 39 17 7 197 155 85
3 NYI 65 41 21 3 207 182 85
4 TBL 65 39 20 6 213 171 84
5 DET 62 36 15 11 182 160 83
6 PIT 63 36 18 9 182 158 81
7 WSH 65 35 20 10 193 162 80
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 64 28 23 13 156 181 69
10 OTT 62 28 23 11 176 167 67
11 PHI 64 27 25 12 170 186 66
12 NJD 64 27 27 10 144 165 64
13 TOR 64 26 33 5 173 195 57
14 CBJ 63 26 33 4 163 201 56
15 CAR 62 24 31 7 144 167 55
16 BUF 64 19 40 5 123 215 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
M. Cammalleri 52 24 10 5 34
A. Henrique 57 12 20 -2 32
P. Elias 54 10 17 -12 27
S. Gomez 40 5 19 -10 24
T. Zajac 56 10 10 -3 20
S. Bernier 49 10 9 0 19
A. Larsson 46 3 16 5 19
M. Ryder 44 6 12 -2 18
A. Greene 64 2 13 7 15
E. Gelinas 44 5 9 -2 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 24 23 6 .928 2.17
K. Kinkaid 3 4 3 .915 2.59