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Devils Turn to Stevens

May 09, 2003|From Associated Press

In the opening minutes of practice Thursday, Scott Stevens stood opposite Jamie Langenbrunner waiting to pounce on a rebound.

As the puck bounced off goaltender Corey Schwab's pads, the New Jersey Devil teammates acted like kids on the first day of training camp, straining to be the first to slam the puck in the net.

It was hard to tell who got it, but Stevens smiled broadly as he skated hard to center ice.

Stevens is not only enjoying his 21st season in the NHL, the 39-year-old defenseman is still the force driving the Devils to another Stanley Cup run. They start the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals Saturday in Ottawa.

"Every year he comes in and he's in the best shape of anyone in the locker room," Devil goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "He is our leader, but it's more than just a leader. He's an example of what a professional athlete should be. The way he prepares and goes out and battles at this stage in his career. That's what guys are most impressed with."

Stevens has been phenomenal in the first two rounds of the playoffs. He leads the league with a plus-10 ranking despite missing most of Game 3 of the conference semifinals after being hit in the ear with a shot.

It's a remarkable statistic because the offensively challenged Devils have played only 10 postseason games, and Stevens always goes against an opponent's top line.

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