- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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At a glance: A Devils-Kings matchup was one that few would’ve predicted at the outset of the 2011-12 season, but the two teams meet in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday. The Devils host the eighth-seeded Kings at home in Newark, aiming to put L.A. in a hole for the first time this postseason while the Kings try to shake off the cobwebs from a long wait between series.
Lengthy layoff: Having lost only two games through the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Kings are anxious to get back on the ice after an eight-day layoff from game action.
“The layoff's nice with regards to rest, but I think most players are ready to play,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown.
Quick shot: The Devils insist they’re not daunted by the task of facing Vezina Trophy candidate Jonathan Quick. The 28-year-old goaltender has had a stellar postseason with a league-leading 1.54 goals against average and .954 save percentage, but the Devils already beat one of the league’s best, Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, in the Eastern Conference finals.
"I don't think anyone in here is worried that he can't beat Jonathan Quick, or that he's going to stand on his head and beat us," New Jersey’s Ryan Carter said.
Captains America: For the first time in NHL history, two American-born captains will compete against each other in the Stanley Cup finals. Regardless of whether L.A.’s Brown (Ithaca, N.Y.) or New Jersey’s Zach Parise (Minneapolis) is the last one standing, the winner will be the first U.S.-born captain to lift the Cup since Derian Hatcher secured the championship with Dallas in 1999.
Fear the forecheck: Both teams feature a formidable forecheck that has overwhelmed opponents this postseason. “I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the last two teams playing are that style,” Parise said.
Full circle: Drafted by the Devils in the eighth-round (199th overall) of the 1996 draft, Kings veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell aims to bring his career full circle against his former team. The 35-year-old spent three years in the Devils' system before he was traded to Minnesota in 2001.
Gag-ne order: Injured Kings forward Simon Gagne (concussion) has been cleared for contact, although coach Darryl Sutter declined to elaborate further on his status. The 32-year-old winger has not played since Dec. 26.
"The answer is the same and I don't know how to answer it, right? You tell the truth or don't say nothing,” Sutter said.
Parise mum on free agency: Could a Devils Stanley Cup victory be enough to convince Parise to stay? The 27-year-old winger, set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, declined to address his status at media day on Tuesday. “I’m not answering any questions about free agency,” he said.
5dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald