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DEVIL NOTES

They Rely on Home Remedy

May 26, 2003|Jerry Crowe and Helene Elliott | Times Staff Writers

WEST ORANGE, N.J. — In the NHL playoffs this spring, the New Jersey Devils have been nearly unbeatable at home, the Mighty Ducks nearly perfect on the road.

While the Ducks have won six of seven road games in advancing to the Stanley Cup finals, the Devils are 8-1 in Continental Airlines Arena at East Rutherford, N.J., where the best-of-seven championship series kicks off Tuesday night.

"We've tried to establish ourselves at home and keep the home-ice advantage," Scott Stevens said of the Devils, who have outscored their opponents at home, 24-10, and were unbeaten before losing in overtime to the Ottawa Senators last Wednesday night. "We really need to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to grab that [first] game, and that's what we plan to do.

"We know they've done a great job against some top teams in the league and played well on the road, so it's a good challenge for us. Hopefully, that will get us focused and prepare us even better for this next round."

On the road, the Ducks have outscored their opponents, 16-12.

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Devil Coach Pat Burns, on whether he expected a low-scoring series in the matchup of goaltenders Martin Brodeur of the Devils and Jean-Sebastien Giguere: "I'll check with my crystal ball and I'll be able to answer that question because that's very, very hard to answer. I don't really know.

"It was just like the last series, [everybody said] whoever gets the first goal wins in Game 7. Remember that one? Well, they got the first goal and we won the game. So, so much for that theory."

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It took Duck winger Steve Thomas 19 seasons to get to the Stanley Cup finals. Scott Gomez is in his fourth season with the Devils, who are making their third finals appearance in that span.

"It kind of shows how I'm lucky and spoiled," Gomez said. "Steve Thomas is an awesome player and person. This has been a great opportunity for me to play here, with this great bunch of guys."

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The injury suffered by center Joe Nieuwendyk in Game 6 of the Devils' East final against Ottawa, variously described as a hip, back and knee problem, kept him off the ice Sunday. Nieuwendyk said he doesn't plan to skate today, either.

In keeping with the tradition of hiding playoff injuries, he declined to specify the problem beyond saying it's a lower-body injury. "You can throw in that it's my right shoulder," he joked.

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