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DEVIL NOTES

Tverdovsky Plays, Nieuwendyk Sits

May 28, 2003|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Perhaps playing a hunch, Coach Pat Burns put Oleg Tverdovsky back into the New Jersey Devils' lineup Tuesday night.

"It's a challenge for him, I think, with his ex-teammates," Burns said of the former Mighty Duck defenseman, acquired last summer in the trade that also brought Jeff Friesen to the Devils and sent Petr Sykora to the Ducks.

Tverdovsky was grateful for the chance to play in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time. Though sound physically, he had been held out of the Devil lineup for six consecutive games and eight of nine.

"You want to be in these types of games," said the 27-year-old Russian, whose season was hampered by a concussion and other physical problems that limited him to 50 games. "I know I can play this game.

"It's been a difficult year for me ... but I can still do a lot of things out there. As far as my confidence, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be useful."

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Joe Nieuwendyk, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Ottawa Senators, did not play.

"It's a big loss," Burns said. "Joe Nieuwendyk has been in these games many times before. But we've stepped up all year long when we've lost somebody. Somebody else has to step up."

Nieuwendyk, 36, could become only the sixth player in NHL history to win championships with three teams, having won with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and Dallas Stars in 1999.

Nieuwendyk, asked Monday how he might help the team if he couldn't play: "I'll make sure Marty [Brodeur, the Devils' goalie] gets some energy bars in between periods."

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Scott Niedermayer, older brother of Duck center Rob Niedermayer, on their mother, Carol, saying she hopes the Ducks win the Cup because Scott has already won two and Rob none: "I got a lot of grief from my teammates. It might backfire on my mom. Hopefully, my brother will have another chance somewhere down the road."

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Scott Stevens played in his 227th playoff game, moving into a tie with Larry Robinson for fifth place on the all-time list and tops among defensemen. Stevens, in his 21st season, could catch former teammate Claude Lemieux for third place, behind only Patrick Roy and Mark Messier, if the series goes seven games.

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