New York Hockey: Peter DeBoer

W2W4: Islanders vs. Devils

September, 21, 2013
At a glance: Brooklyn gets a taste of NHL hockey Saturday in the first preseason game at Barclays Center -- the Islanders’ future home come 2015 -- when the Isles and Devils meet up for their second tilt in three days. Already familiar foes, the two teams will square off again opening weekend, as the Devils host the Islanders in their home opener Oct. 4.

Last time around: The Islanders beat the Devils in a scoring bonanza that featured two short-handed goals in the first period from Josh Bailey, a breakaway goal by Ex-Devil Eric Boulton and three fights between Devils enforcer Krys Barch and Islanders tough guy Brett Gallant. Devils rookie defenseman Jon Merrill also finished with a goal and an assist in his Devils debut.

Hello, Brooklyn: The Islanders appear to be bringing their A-team for the first NHL game at Barclays, with the bulk of their opening day roster slated to play Saturday night. According to Newsday, the team’s top line of Matt Moulson, John Tavares and Pierre-Marc Bouchard will play, as will Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo. Veteran netminder Evgeni Nabokov is expected to start in goal.

Second shot: After an impressive performance in his first game as a New Jersey Devil on Monday night, Cory Schneider will get the nod again Saturday. Schneider, who turned away all 22 shots faced in the Devils’ 2-1 win over the Rangers, is expected to play the entire game, according to The Bergen Record.

Ailing veterans: Two of the Devils’ biggest offseason acquisitions -- Jaromir Jagr and Ryane Clowe -- are already on the shelf due to injury. Jagr has not practiced with the team since suffering a lower-body injury the first day of training camp, while Clowe is out with a charley horse sustained in Thursday’s loss. Coach Pete DeBoer said he is not concerned Clowe’s injury will be a long-term issue, however.

Young guns: The Islanders line of top prospects Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome was a fun one to watch Thursday night. Now, keep an eye on the youngsters on their blue line. Both Griffin Reinhart and Matt Donovan will play Saturday as they look to compete for a roster spot.

DeBoer tossed as frustration spills over

April, 21, 2013
Livid with the officiating throughout his team's 4-1 loss to the Rangers, Devils coach Pete DeBoer was tossed from the game with less than 35 seconds remaining in regulation.

DeBoer, who earned a bench minor for "abuse of officials" in the second period after a blatant too-many-men penalty on the Rangers went unnoticed, was served with a game misconduct as time was winding down.

It was the last indignity of a frustrating game that officially eliminated the Devils from playoff contention. The Devils have now missed the playoffs in two of the last three seasons, though DeBoer led New Jersey to the Stanley Cup finals last spring.

"There was frustration," DeBoer said. "It's obviously not the way you want to go out. But that's how it ends for us. We will have to regroup and move forward."

The officiating was questionable throughout the game, and Ilya Kovalchuk came to his coach's defense.

Throwing out DeBoer so late in the game seemed unnecessary, Kovalchuk said.

"You can't do that in the last seconds in front of everybody," Kovalchuk told reporters. "Fifteen seconds left, you don't have to put on a show."

It is not clear whether DeBoer will be subject to any discipline from the league, though Islanders coach Brent Thompson was suspended two games for his emotional outburst after the Isles' 2-1 loss to the Rangers back in March.

Brodeur skates again, still no timetable

March, 13, 2013
NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (back) skated for the second straight day, but Devils coach Peter DeBoer said it's "too soon" to know when the veteran will return to practice.

Brodeur suffered the injury in warmups before facing Winnipeg on Feb. 24, as the team said he developed "soreness" in his back. He's been on IR retroactive to Feb. 24, and tonight's contest vs. Philadelphia will be his ninth straight missed game. Johan Hedberg will start his 10th straight game.

Tuesday marked the first time Brodeur skated since the injury, and Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters "it's still going to be a little bit" before Brodeur returns. He last played on Feb. 21 in a win against Washington, and is 8-2-3 on the year.

Defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who is on IR with a lower body injury, also skated again Tuesday. The Devils placed him on injured reserve Tuesday retroactive to March 7 as he has missed the last three games. The 34-year-old has played in just four of the team's last 13 games.

NO CHANGES: DeBoer said he will be using the same lineup as last game. So, center Harri Pesonen won't be making his NHL debut Wednesday. The Devils called up Pesonen after placing Tallinder on IR on Tuesday and he participated in the team's morning skate Wednesday.

"I'm here and I'm ready if something happens or the lineup changes," Pesonen said. "I can't complain."

Pesonen had been playing with Albany (AHL) where he notched 11 goals and 15 assists. The 24-year-old is hoping to make his debut Friday in Philadelphia. "I try not to be nervous," Pesonen said. "Try to be myself and be ready if I get called up to the lineup."

CLARKSON STRUGGLES: After a torrid start to the season, Devils forward David Clarkson has hit a wall over the past month. In his last 12 games, dating back to Feb. 16, Clarkson has just two assists, including just one this month. In the first 14 games, he had 10 goals and six assists.

DeBoer would like to see Clarkson create more chances around the goal.

"With David, for me, it's getting pucks to the net. He's a guy that gets shots on net from all different angles. We don't have a team with a real shot mentality so that's important and I think he gets rewarded for that when he does that," DeBoer said. "When you look at his shot totals, I think there's a correlation between him getting the puck to the net and the goals that go in."

Clarkson, who has scored 30 goals just once in his career, didn't seem too worried about his play. He believes he's had chances that just haven't resulted in goals. "As long as this team is winning I don't care if it's me or whoever is scoring. They'll go in if I get back to those areas of the ice and (keep) getting those chances," Clarkson said. "If you're not getting chances, then you worry. The chances are there, just got to continue going on those areas of the ice."

DeBoer: Devils 'rock solid' against Rangers

February, 5, 2013
NEWARK, N.J. -- There was an eerie symmetry to the way Tuesday's game between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers began in the first rematch of the two teams since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals last spring.

The Rangers' old nemesis Adam Henrique, who scored the series-winning overtime goal that ended New York’s playoff run back in May, opened up scoring for the Devils with a top-shelf marker that paved the way for New Jersey to knock off their Atlantic Division rivals, 3-1, in the same building where the two clubs last crossed paths.

[+] EnlargeMartin Brodeur
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsMartin Brodeur had 24 saves against the Rangers.
Entering Tuesday's game as losers in four of their past five, the Devils set the tone early. New Jersey put the Rangers on their heels, establishing an aggressive forecheck and building off the momentum of their penalty-killing and stellar goaltending from 40-year-old Martin Brodeur.

David Clarkson also delivered, tallying twice to prove that last season’s success was no aberration, while veteran forward Patrik Elias assisted on all three Devils goals.

"It was a huge game for us. We knew we needed to come out hard and I thought we did a lot of good things as a team tonight," Clarkson said. "Marty played unbelievable, that save he made in the first and throughout the rest of the game, and I thought our penalty kill was fantastic tonight."

After an outstanding 30 goals last season, Clarkson is picking up where he left off, going to the high-traffic areas and scoring the dirty goals that made him one of the Devils' most productive forwards last season. With a three-point game Tuesday, Clarkson leads the Devils in scoring with 12 points (seven goals, five assists).

"The big test for him was to prove he wasn’t a 'flash in the pan' 30-goal guy, that he could do that on a consistent basis," New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer said, "and I think he’s proven that."

The gritty 28-year-old winger, who is set to become and unrestricted free agent this summer, is making a strong case for himself as a proven scoring threat. He may not be the most skilled or possess the most finesse, but his hard work and nose for the net has translated into the type of "puck luck" he often credits for his success.

"He creates his own luck," DeBoer said. "He's a guy that the puck follows him around. He has that innate ability that he’s in the right place at the right time. When you do it over and over again, it’s not an accident."

It wasn’t the goal-scorers who got credit from DeBoer following the team's second straight win, though. According to him, the team’s penalty-killers and goaltending were both "rock solid."

The Devils stopped the Rangers on all five power-play opportunities -- four of which came in the first period -- and were buoyed by Brodeur when the Rangers pressed back.

Brodeur turned away 24 shots to earn his fourth win of the season and stymied the Rangers on a couple of stunning saves. He made an acrobatic dive to smother the puck and stop Rangers defenseman Marc Staal in the first period. Brodeur then made a sharp glove save to rob Carl Hagelin driving the net in the third.

"It was fun. We got some big kills and I think that brought the energy level pretty high. It’s fun to play in front of fans like that," Brodeur said. "I wish it could be every single game but I know … when we do play the Rangers, it’s a little different."

DeBoer on rivalry: 'Just great hockey'

February, 5, 2013
It has been almost nine months since the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers squared off in a heated and hostile battle for the Eastern Conference title, but the rivalry between the two teams has not cooled.

In a lockout-shortened season with heavy emphasis on racking up wins in the division, the two teams are expecting a regular-season match that mimics the intensity of last spring.

"Every game was so hard-fought. It was hard not to get caught up in it," said Devils coach Pete DeBoer. "It was just great hockey. We hope to recapture some of that this year."

The Devils knocked off the Rangers in Game 6, 3-2, thanks to rookie Adam Henrique's stunning overtime goal. It was a play that earned him a place among the great moments in the rivalry's history he had heard so much about growing up as a kid in Ontario.

"I was only four [years old] in '94, but you already knew growing up there's a rivalry," he said. "Last year, it really heated things up."

Henrique, who spent the first few weeks of the season recovering from thumb surgery, is back just in time. The 22-year-old center, a 2012 Calder Trophy finalist, returned to the lineup last Thursday and expects a tough test against the Blueshirts Tuesday.

"These are fun games to play in," he said. "They're going to bring their best. We're going to bring our best."

Devils still perfect after Kovalchuk's winner

January, 25, 2013

NEWARK, N.J. -- Capitals coach and former Devils assistant Adam Oates was trying to find the silver lining in his team’s overtime loss until Ilya Kovalchuk’s sharp-angle game winner was brought up.

At that, Oates rolled his eyes:

“Seen that before. I used to like it.”

Pete DeBoer had no complaints. When asked how he felt about the shot selection, DeBoer gave Kovalchuk a free pass.

“Depends who it is,” he said. “If it’s on Kovy’s stick, that angle’s fine.”

Martin Brodeur
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsMartin Brodeur, who has been in goal for each of the Devils' three wins, was terrific against the Caps.
Kovalchuk’s quick-fire wrister beat Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth with less than 21 seconds to play in overtime and lifted the Devils to an impressive 3-0-0 record to begin the 2013 lockout-shortened season.

After a surprising trip to the Stanley Cup finals last season, the Devils are once again surpassing expectations as they established themselves as the only unbeaten team in the East.

“Some teams are struggling a little bit and some teams are doing well,” said Kovalchuk, who tallied his second goal of the season. “I think it helps that we played ‘til mid-June last year and all the core guys stayed the same. And the coach, we know exactly what he wants from us. I think it’s to our advantage.”

The core guys are not entirely the same, of course -- Zach Parise is now playing for his hometown Minnesota Wild after signing a monster contract this summer -- but the core players that remain have been pulling together.

Kovalchuk added another game winner. Martin Brodeur was terrific in goal to collect his third straight win. And veterans like Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky are producing, chipping in Friday night with two points apiece.

“How hard our veteran players worked during the offseason, extended offseason, has really led to the start we’ve had,” DeBoer said. “Elias is in great shape, Brodeur is in great shape, Zubrus is in great shape, Kovy is in great shape. That helps.”

The Devils will aim to preserve their perfect record Sunday when they travel to Montreal to begin their first extended road trip of the season.

“I saw somewhere that every two points is worth 3.42 or something like that based on an 82-game schedule,” DeBoer said. “So every win we get, every point we bank is critical here.”

Rapid Reaction: Devils 3, Caps 2 (OT)

January, 25, 2013
At a glance: Despite a late-game comeback from the Capitals and a stellar night by goaltender Michal Neuvirth, the Devils knocked off Washington 3-2 in overtime on Ilya Kovalchuk's game winner to improve to 3-0-0. Meanwhile, former Devils assistant Adam Oates' return to New Jersey was spoiled as the hapless Capitals sunk to 0-3-1.

Tie game: Capitals defenseman Mike Green single-handedly earned his team their first point of the season with his game-tying goal in the third. Green's point shot got past Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur to knot the game at 2 with 2:56 to play. Had the Capitals not pushed the game to overtime, they'd have been the lone team in the league without a point this season.

Cashing in: With a two-man advantage late in the second period, alternate captain Patrik Elias gave the Devils a 2-0 lead. With two Caps in the box and the Devils on the 5-on-3, Elias pounced on a rebound from Marek Zidlicky’s shot for a power-play goal, his first of the season.

Answer back: Trailing 2-0, the Capitals answered back with their own 5-on-3 goal in the third period. A textbook passing play led to an easy one for Mike Ribeiro, who cut the Devils' lead in half, 2-1, at 12:45.

End of experiment: After spending the first three games playing right wing -- and managing only one assist during that span -- the Capitals abandoned their Alex Ovechkin experiment and moved him back to the left side. It was a strange switch, however, as Oates placed him on a line with grinders Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb to start the game. Ovechkin eventually shuffled to play with Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer by the second period.

Sweet shot: Stephen Gionta, the Devils' Cinderella story of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, opened scoring in the first period with his first goal of the season, at 13:55. Center Jacob Josefson picked up an assist on Gionta’s goal after making a slick move to split two Caps defenders and set up the play.

Controlling play: Before the game, Devils coach Pete DeBoer said he wanted to see his team dictate play. They did that in the second period, rattling off 10 unanswered shots on goal in the last 4:47 of play. The Capitals, who spent a good chunk of the frame in the penalty box, did not manage a shot for the last 7:25 of play.

Devils debut: Replacing fellow tough guy Cam Janssen in the lineup, veteran forward Krys Barch played in his first game since signing with the Devils this summer.

Up Next: Devils at Canadiens, Sunday at 6 p.m.

W2W4: Devils vs. Capitals

January, 25, 2013
At a glance: The Devils knocked off a winless Flyers squad Tuesday to preserve their unblemished record, and will face yet another desperate team in the 0-3-0 Capitals on Friday. Coming off a wretched 4-1 loss to the Canadiens on Thursday, the Caps are aiming to secure their first win of the season against the reigning Eastern Conference champions.

Familiar foe: The Devils will face former assistant coach Adam Oates when the two teams square off. Oates -- who was also inducted into the Hall of Fame, in addition to being named head coach of the Capitals -- spent the past two seasons behind the bench as an assistant in New Jersey. Devils coach Pete DeBoer said the Caps have a “helluva coach” and that he warned the Devils that the Capitals are a “dangerous team.”

Back to Brodeur: The Devils will have Martin Brodeur back in net after the 40-year-old posted wins in his first two starts. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer has surrendered only one goal on 43 shots faced through the first two games of the season.

Goaltending woes: While the Devils boast one of the all-time greats in goal, the Capitals are still trying to sort out their issues in net. After a terrific playoff performance last spring, 23-year-old Braden Holtby surrendered an unsightly 10 goals in his first two starts, prompting Oates to give Michal Neuvirth the nod on Thursday. Oates will turn Neuvirth again Friday, hoping he can stop the bleeding and turn things around.

Ovi MIA: Superstar Alex Ovechkin is off to a lackluster start for the Capitals. The 27-year-old forward, who spent the lockout playing in his native Russia, has been limited to only one point in the first three games of the season.

Henrique nearing return: 2012 Calder Trophy finalist Adam Henrique is getting closer to his return from a hand injury. The 22-year-old center, one of the team’s clutch performers in last year's playoffs, skated with the team Friday morning for the first time since undergoing surgery on his thumb. DeBoer said Henrique is still 7-to-10 days from making his season debut.

Krys-tal clear: According to the Devils' lines in Friday morning’s skate, veteran forward Krys Barch will play his first game of the season Friday. The 32-year-old winger, who signed with New Jersey as a free agent this summer, spent the bulk of last season with the Panthers, where he racked up 92 penalty minutes.

Henrique nearing return

January, 25, 2013
In his first full practice with the team since returning from hand surgery, 22-year-old Adam Henrique was on the ice for the Devils' morning skate Friday.

The 2012 Calder Trophy finalist, who had five goals and eight assists in the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring, has begun taking shots and is working on regaining strength in his injured left hand.

Coach Pete DeBoer said he expects Henrique to be back in approximately seven to 10 days.

"It's great to see him back," DeBoer said. "He's a big part of our team and our lineup and he just allows you, obviously, assuming you stay healthy, by slotting him in it allows you to put guys in better positions for them to have success and for us to have success."

Henrique sustained the injury to his left thumb in November while playing for the team's AHL affiliate in Albany during the lockout. Henrique said he's feeling better and that the doctors have been happy with his progress, but that he still needs more time before he's ready to play in his first game of the season.

"A couple months off, it's not full strength yet," Henrique said. "It's going to take a little bit of time."

Henrique is not expected to accompany the team on its upcoming road trip to Montreal and Boston, but he was excited to be back on the ice with his teammates before Friday's game.

"It's awesome," Henrique said. "It's just a big morale boost for me, just to be around the guys."

Devils' Kovalchuk: 'I'm happy I'm back'

January, 16, 2013
Ilya KovalchukJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesAfter spending the lockout in Russia, Ilya Kovalchuk is excited to be back on the ice for the Devils.
NEWARK, N.J. – Putting to bed all the speculation that he could possibly stay in Russia this season, Devils’ star Ilya Kovalchuk arrived for his first day of training camp with the team Wednesday.

The 29-year-old winger, who played in his native Russia during the lockout and missed the first day of camp to play in the Kontinental Hockey League’s All-Star Game Sunday, explained his decision after playing in the Devils’ intra-squad scrimmage.

Kovalchuk said he wanted to participate in the game for the Russian fans, who had already bought tickets expecting to see him play, and asked Devils GM Lou Lamoriello’s permission first.

“I’m happy I’m back,” said Kovalchuk, who led the Devils in scoring last season with 37 goals and 46 assists. “I got some family reasons [why] I stayed, and I decided to play in the All-Star game there. I asked Lou and we just had a good talk. Everybody understands each other.”

In the interim period between the NHL and NHLPA brokering a new collective bargaining agreement and that agreement’s official ratification, reports out of Russia indicated that several of the country’s stars such as Kovalchuk, Alexander Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk might prefer and/or attempt to stay in the KHL.

The KHL and NHL have a Memorandum of Agreement that no player with an NHL contract can play in the KHL once the lockout is lifted.

“No, I don’t know where you read all those comments, but I have a contract here and in KHL they have a rule that as soon as the lockout ends, we have to go back,” Kovalchuk said. “Nobody had a choice.”

Kovalchuk laughed when denying one report, that even Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to convince him to stay.

“No, that’s not true,” Kovalchuk said. “I’m sure he’s got some other stuff to take care of.”

Lamoriello said he was never worried that Kovalchuk, whose 15-year, $100 million contract is signed through 2024-25, would stay.

“No, I never had any reason to believe he wouldn’t be back,” Lamoriello said.

Kovalchuk said he loved playing at home and enjoyed spending time with family in his native country – he got to celebrate the Russian New Year for the first time in seven years – but is glad to return now that the lockout has ended.

And given his time spent during the lockout – he racked up 18 goals and 24 assists in 36 games for St. Petersburg SKA – he feels he will have a slight edge with such a shortened training camp before the season opens this Saturday.

“I think there will be a little advantage for the guys that were playing,” said Kovalchuk, who flew into New Jersey on Tuesday night. “But it’s going to take a couple days with the time difference and then I’ll just feel normal, like I always do.”

Luckily for Kovalchuk, he managed to slink back into camp without any mention of his time missed or, more importantly, his impromptu figure-skating stunt that he was forced to perform during the All-Star game.

“That’s for later in the season,” coach Pete DeBoer said with a chuckle. “I’m sure that clip will come out.”

Devils not blaming Bernier

June, 13, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. -- Just as they did following their season-ending loss to the Kings in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals on Monday, the Devils rallied around teammate Steve Bernier and absolved him of any guilt in the team's devastating defeat.

It was Bernier's five-minute boarding major for a hit on Rob Scuderi that preceded three power-play goals for the Kings and a 3-0 hole for the Devils.

"I have no second thoughts on him whatsoever," general manager Lou Lamoriello said Wednesday. "I'm just so proud of the way he handled it after the game and what he said. Absolutely not his fault under any circumstances. Could've been any player on the ice."

After the game -- a 6-1 Devils loss that allowed the Kings to clinch their first title -- Bernier patiently answered waves of questions about his miscue rather than duck out and head for the team bus.

Lamoriello agreed that the hit deserved to be penalized, but vouched for Bernier as an honest player.

"To me, that was a penalty, unfortunately," Lamoriello said. "And in all fairness to Bernier -- who had a great year for us, he played great -- those things could’ve happened to any player. That type of situation, the way that rule is, a player turns -- he was doing his job. His job is to finish, his job is to take the body, which he did consistently."

Coach Pete DeBoer echoed a similar sentiment and praised the 27-year-old winger's contributions as a member of the team's productive, high-energy fourth line that was phenomenal during the postseason.

"Steve was just doing what we asked him to do and what he was very effective in doing the entire playoffs -- get in on the forecheck and finish a hit," he said. "I have no negative feelings towards that play."

Bernier, who after the game said he wished he could take the play back, sounded grateful for the support he has received from coaches, teammates and fans alike. He was particularly touched to see the crowd of fans waiting in the rain Tuesday when the Devils' plane arrived home in Newark.

"It was extremely hard that night, but right now it's back to feeling good," he said. "When I saw the fans yesterday cheering and stuff, that helps in a way. I've put it behind me."

W2W4: Game 6, Devils vs. Kings

June, 11, 2012

At a glance: Two times the Kings have had the chance to finish off the Devils and both times they have failed. After falling behind in a 3-0 hole, the Devils have recorded two straight wins to send the series back to Los Angeles and shift the pressure to the Kings for Game 6 on Monday night.

Can the Devils postpone the party once again?

Plenty of people wrote New Jersey off early in the series, but the Devils still feel they have unfinished business.

Said captain Zach Parise: “I don’t see any reason we should be over-confident or satisfied. We’re still down 3-2.”

Losing focus: Kings defenseman Drew Doughty openly admitted his team was guilty of looking ahead the last time they had a chance to clinch the Cup at home. He said the influx of family and friends was a distraction as they were looking to sweep in Game 4 at Staples Center. Doughty vowed that the Kings won’t make a similar mistake this time, calling it “a lesson learned.”

Brodeur at best: 40-year-old Martin Brodeur isn’t showing any signs of aging. The Devils veteran goaltender has seemed to find another gear in the playoffs -- and in the Cup final, especially. In a series where L.A.’s resident Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick has garnered most of the attention, Brodeur is stealing back the spotlight with some of his finest saves of the season. The three-time Cup winner has surrendered only two goals in the last two games.

More snarl to series: In a series that has been physical but otherwise pretty civil, things got a little nastier in Game 5. A post-whistle scrum even led one Kings player to pull Brodeur’s jersey over his head as tempers flared in the third period.

“When you play a team five times in a week-and-a-half, it’s going to get a little more heated,” Kings forward Mike Richards said Sunday.

Cooler heads: With the series tight at 3-2, discipline will be paramount for the Devils. New Jersey’s penalty-killing unit lost a bit of swagger early in the playoffs and almost paid dearly for it. The Devils have given up 19 goals in 73 times shorthanded (74%), compared with a staggering 89.6% success rate that led the league during the regular season.

If it ain’t broke: There will be no lineup changes for the Devils on Monday night, according to coach Pete DeBoer.

Gut-check time: Statistics can change on a dime this time of year -- Game 5 snapped both the Kings' 10-0 road record and the Devils' 0-for-15 power-play skid -- but the Devils want to keep an important one intact: They are 4-0 when facing elimination games this postseason.

DeBoer not blaming ice for Game 1 loss

May, 31, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. -- A lot was made about how bad the Prudential Center ice was following Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.

But Devils coach Peter DeBoer wasn’t about to make that an excuse as to why his team lost, 2-1, in overtime to the Kings on Wednesday night.

“It’s the same for both teams,” DeBoer said. “The ice conditions this time of year, regardless of where you’re playing, aren’t going to be great. It’s something you have to deal with.”

• DeBoer gave his team the day off on Thursday rather than have them practice.

He isn’t a big fan of the two-day break between Games 1 and 2.

“I think we’d like to jump right back in and play,” DeBoer said. “I’m sure they would, too, after getting a win. I think you want to play, for me, every other day this time of year, that’s the perfect scenario. But we’ll take the time to fix what we have to fix.”

DeBoer came in Thursday morning, re-watched Game 1 and decided what areas needed to be fixed along with the rest of his coaching staff.

“We gave the players a day off to stay away from the rink. [Friday] we’ll come in, look at the tape with them, the areas we need to improve, have a good practice and go at it Saturday night.”

Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk all said they were “nervous” heading into the series.

Any concerns, coach?

“No,” DeBoer replied. “This is a huge deal. It doesn’t matter whether you played in this situation before. I mean, Patty and Marty haven’t been here in nine years. Kovy’s never been here. So that doesn’t surprise me. We dealt with that some early in the game. I thought, as the game progressed, we kind of got through that. Now that’s in the rear-view mirror and we can just play.”

DeBoer: 'We have to be better'

May, 31, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils coach Peter DeBoer listened to what his players told the media following the team’s 2-1 overtime loss in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night -- and he was pleased with what he heard.

“The comforting thing for me is when I listen to the comments of our players [Wednesday night], they were dead-on,” DeBoer said Thursday. “We weren’t good enough. We have to be better.

“We got over the early game jitters. We started to play a little bit better. But, as a group, we’ve got to bring more to win this time of year.”

The Devils went into the series hoping to get pucks to the net and traffic in front of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, but they had only nine shots through the first two periods -- 18 overall.

Mark Fayne had an open net, but failed to bury a bouncing rebound in the third. David Clarkson ripped a shot high and wide in the first. Zach Parise failed to pound a puck home in front in the final frame.

Right before Anze Kopitar’s breakaway game-winner, Marek Zidlicky and Bryce Salvador were caught out of position.

“You know the word is ‘execution’ for me. Our execution was poor in a lot of areas,” DeBoer said.

His played explained why.

“I think it was nerves, jitters, [the] ice. I don’t know,” Ryan Carter said. “You can point to a couple different areas. I think at times we were careless with the puck a little bit and got away from what got us where we’re at, turning it over and not making the plays that we’re used to making. That created a little momentum for them, some room. You can’t give that up this time of year.”

“We didn’t play our best,” Travis Zajac added. “We were a little nervous and tentative in the first period. You could see that. We weren’t making plays. We were throwing the puck away a little too much, not moving our feet and getting on the forecheck like we usually do. We felt like we missed an opportunity because we were able to hang around against this team.

“But the fact that we didn’t play our best game and we still had a chance to win makes us feel pretty good that we can play better and be more successful in Game 2.”

The Devils came away impressed by what they saw from the Kings, who improved to 9-0 on the road in the playoffs.

“We knew coming in that they were a big, physical team,” Zajac said. “They were good in the offensive zone, cycling pucks and controlling the play. They have some D-men that can jump in the play and create chances. And they have a good goalie. I think we saw all that [Wednesday night].

Added Adam Henrique: “They keep coming at you, they roll all four lines and they’re a deep team.”

So what do the Devils need to do better?

“We’ve gotta start from the beginning and get pucks behind their D,” Zajac said. “They stand up well, they got back pressure all the time from their forwards, so for us, we’ll have to get pucks behind them and go to work down low.

“I think in the other series against Philly and the Rangers, we were able to create some offense off our cycles, going high to low to the points and getting traffic and getting shots on net, and we definitely didn’t do enough of that [Wednesday night]. So we’ll have to execute in that part of our game, and hopefully everything else will take care of itself.”

The Devils have lost Game 1 in their last series, so they aren’t ready to panic -- yet.

Not your father's Devils anymore

May, 29, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. -- Peter DeBoer knew what style he wanted his team to play from the moment he was hired as head coach of the New Jersey Devils.

“We want to pursue the puck. We want to dictate the pace of the play,” DeBoer said in July. “But at the same time the foundation of that is still good, solid defensive hockey and playing the right way, and I think that meshes perfectly with what they do here.”

Back in 1995, the Devils first won the Stanley Cup by implementing and executing the neutral zone trap to perfection. Seventeen years later, they go about their business a different way -- yet have enjoyed similar results.

“I think at times we got stereotyped too much,” defenseman Ken Daneyko, who played his entire career in New Jersey from 1983-2003, said. “Yes, we played a little more defensively, but we had really good defensemen and our team was built around Martin Brodeur and defense.”

In 1999-2000, the Devils were second in the NHL in goals and went on to win the Cup. The following season, they led the league in goals and lost the finals to the Avalanche in seven games.

Still, the perception that they didn’t play “exciting hockey” has stayed with their organization -- until now.

“Since the lockout, the emphasis has been more on offense, but it’s not like they don’t stick to their foundation of playing good in their own end. They just pressure the puck so much more. And they deserve a lot of credit for that,” said Daneyko, who now serves as one of the team’s television analysts.

During the playoffs, the Devils have averaged nearly three goals per game.

“I’m sure Peter had to sell GM Lou Lamoriello on his system,” Daneyko said, laughing. “But he knew where his team’s strength was and that was for the defensemen to get the puck up to the forwards and attack more.”

While Adam Henrique’s two series-clinching overtime goals stand out above the rest, Ryan Carter’s game-winner with 4:24 left in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Rangers may turn out to be the team’s most important. And it came as a result of its new system.

After the puck was dumped into the offensive zone, Ilya Kovalchuk came in hard on the forecheck and pinned Michael Del Zotto against the corner boards. Stephen Gionta pursued from behind and collected the loose puck before feeding Carter out in front.

Perfect execution. Perfect result.

“It’s all about support and relentlessness,” Daneyko said. “Sometimes they’ve got three forecheckers right together because they think they’re going to come out with the puck.

“In the old days, we wouldn’t have done that. We would’ve had a safety valve in the offensive zone or out by the blue line. Now, they’ll all go to the corner because they think they’re going to come out with it, and that’s puck pressure."

It took a while for the players to become acclimated with the style that DeBoer wanted them to play. But now that they have, they’ve been a force.

“I think we had a captive audience,” DeBoer said. “You had a team last year that missed the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. And I also felt in my conversations with them that they wanted to push the pace a little bit more than they had in the past. That fit what I wanted to do, the stars aligned and they bought in.”