EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Before last month, Ken Daneyko had played in every playoff game in New Jersey Devil history, 165 in all, from a first-round Game 1 loss to the New York Islanders on April 6, 1988, through a first-round Game 3 victory over the Boston Bruins on April 17.
But in six of the Devils' last 15 games, among them the opening match of the Stanley Cup finals Tuesday night against the Mighty Ducks, the 39-year-old defenseman has been scratched by Coach Pat Burns.
Only three players in NHL history have played in more games while spending their career with one team than Daneyko, who has suited up in 1,283 since the Devils drafted him with a first-round pick in 1982.
But he sat out four games in the Eastern Conference finals against the younger, faster Ottawa Senators and Burns benched him again Tuesday in favor of former Duck Oleg Tverdovsky, a more productive offensive player.
"I don't need an explanation," Daneyko said before the game. "This is Oleg's old team and hopefully he can get some retribution and help us win."
Still, it stung.
"Any player would feel disappointed," he said. "I'm a little surprised, but I've learned to expect the unexpected. It's been like this all year and in the playoffs. It's out of my control. I have no say.
"It's been difficult every time, but I really don't want to say much."
Burns was unapologetic.
"It's always difficult, but somebody has to make these decisions," he said. "It's not always pleasant, it's not always fun to advise somebody that you're going to do it. Whether Ken comes back or not, it depends on how it goes. But I've said before, if I have to worry about emotions and things like that, I'm in the wrong business."
Joe Nieuwendyk, who sat out Game 1 because of an undisclosed injury, probably will remain sidelined tonight, as will Turner Stevenson, Burns said.
Stevenson, bothered by a groin injury, has sat out five of the Devils' last six games.
"We certainly would like to have Joe and Turner," said Burns, who replaced them with Sergei Brylin and Jiri Bicek. "We could find a spot for them right away."
No Canadian team has played in the finals since 1994, when the Vancouver Canucks lost to the New York Rangers, nor won the Cup since 1993, when the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Kings.
But hockey's birthplace is well represented in the finals.
The Devils' roster includes 14 Canadians, the Ducks' 12. Nine players are representing the U.S., five Sweden and four Russia and the Czech Republic.
Since the NHL expanded from six teams to 12 in 1967, only the Devils, in 1995, have won the Stanley Cup while opening every series on the road, a feat the Ducks are hoping to duplicate this season.