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Memory of Blown Series Motivates

June 07, 2003|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

The New Jersey Devils are one victory from their third Stanley Cup title, but they know all too well about getting caught looking ahead.

Two years ago, the Devils blew a 3-2 lead in games over Colorado and lost the NHL championship to the Avalanche. New Jersey lost Game 6 at home and then Game 7 at Denver.

It's a memory the Devils will take to the ice tonight for Game 6 against the Mighty Ducks at the Arrowhead Pond.

"It's a different season, different year, but [it's good to remember]," New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur said Friday. "This time we're playing Game 6 on the road and we have a chance to take care of business. But it's still the same, in that we have two games to win one for the Stanley Cup title."

New Jersey Coach Pat Burns expects that last victory to be the hardest, whether it's earned on the road or at home.

"Nobody has ever figured out why home ice happens to be the ultimate," said Burns, who has never led a team to a Stanley Cup title. "When you get home ice, it's a good thing. But I don't think that when you get to Games 6 and 7, if you get to a Game 7, that [home ice] makes a difference. It's all or nothing now. It's how you play with emotion and discipline. That's what makes the difference."

Burns is confident that the Devils will approach tonight's game with the right attitude.

"There's a lot of leaders on this team," Burns said. "We have guys who were around when the [Devils] won [the Cup] before, who were just role players. But now some of the leaders on those teams are gone and the guys still left have stepped up. They've done a great job on and off the ice.

"I'm proud of what we've accomplished, and we're not done.... We'll worry about the emotions and the feelings afterward."


It's still uncertain whether center Joe Nieuwendyk will play tonight. He has sat out the first five games because of a hip injury.

Nieuwendyk, however, made the trip and plans to test his hip in warmups.

"If Joe can skate in warmups and he feels fine, of course I'll play him," Burns said.

But if Nieuwendyk can't play, the Devils are confident that they can win without him.

"He's been around and having him make the trip is definitely a boost," Brodeur said. "But we're doing well with the guys that we have.... We want him to play when he's ready. If he's not able to go, we'll just go with the guys that we have."


The Mighty Ducks' Paul Kariya may be having problems finding the net, but New Jersey hasn't stopped worrying about him.

"When you have a guy who everyone expects to produce, you just wait for him to explode," Brodeur said. "We have to always pay a lot of attention to him. He's a key player who plays really well at home.... We can't forget about him."

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