Nothing left to be said by veteran Devils
TERRY KOSHAN, QMI AGENCY
|Florida Panthers' Jose Theodore (L) makes a save against New Jersey Devils' Zach Parise (R) during the third period of their NHL Eastern conference quarterfinal playoff hockey Game 5 in Sunrise, Florida April 21, 2012. (REUTERS/Rhona Wise)
NEWARK, N.J. - Zach Parise won't be making any rah-rah, heartfelt speeches to his New Jersey Devils teammates Tuesday night.
"I don't think so," the Devils captain said. "That's more made for movies."
In real life, Parise and the Devils have one shot to continue their season. Lose Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal at the Prudential Center, and they'll disperse for the summer, at least one round earlier than many prognosticators figured they would.
Win and it's on to Game 7 Thursday night in Sunrise, Fla.
At this point, Devils coach Peter DeBoer knows there is not a lot that needs to be said -- whether it's from himself, Parise, future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur or anyone else in the dressing room.
"The guys understand the situation they are in," DeBoer said after the Devils practised Monday. "I have no doubt our compete and our emotional level is going to be right. We have a good veteran group in there, we have guys who have been in this situation before. You always have to walk that line (of controlling emotions), but I think we will be in the right frame of mind."
The Devils have been getting production from numerous players on their roster in the series -- Petr Sykora is the only forward without a point -- but this club needs more from its best players if it is going to play again on Thursday. If they require any inspiration from a source of a different kind, they could look down the highway to Philadelphia and see how Claude Giroux stepped up Sunday afternoon to spearhead the Flyers' elimination of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
That inspirational player could be $100-million man Ilya Kovalchuk, who has just two goals and an assist. Like everyone else in a Devils sweater, he fired only blanks at Panthers goalie Jose Theodore in Game 5. Kovalchuk thought he could shoot the puck more, though his 16 shots on goal are the third-most in the series.
The star winger insisted he is not playing hurt, though rumours abound of a groin injury.
"You guys are fishing," Kovalchuk said. "At this time of the year, everybody is a little tired and you just have to find the extra gear to go and play your best. That goes for everybody. Everything is good (with his health)."
The Panthers got some good news on their defencemen, in various forms. Jason Garrison, who is suffering from a lower-body injury, didn't practise, but hasn't been ruled out of returning to the lineup Tuesday after missing two games. Keaton Ellerby, who took Garrison's spot for Game 4 but was injured and replaced by Tyson Strachan, did practise.
Where the Devils are going to try to keep themselves in check because they don't want to see their season slip away, the Panthers won't exactly be on cruise control. As much as having the home-ice advantage for Game 7 is great, the Panthers would rather finish off the Devils and have a couple of days of rest prior to the second round.
"We've all got those thoughts in our heads that we'd love to get this thing over and that they want to bring it," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "I would expect nothing less than that desperation mode for a team that's down by one and one that also wants to win the series. It's two clubs that will be colliding very early in the game."