May 18, 2012
Devils seek to make Rangers uncomfortable
By Lance Hornby, QMI Agency
NEWARK, N.J. - For some folk, New York to New Jersey is enough of a hockey chasm that it requires a plane to jump it.
The Rangers are loading up a jet with alumni Rod Gilbert, Ron Duguay and 80 fans for a 17-minute party-in-the-sky flight from LaGuardia Airport to Newark International for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final on Saturday afternoon.
But crossing the Hudson can be like going to another country when these teams meet, more so when a trip to the Stanley Cup is on the line. The resurgent Devils sense their great Manhattan rivals are getting frustrated and they intend to make the Prudential Center as inhospitable as the Meadowlands once was. The Devils are 4-1 at home during the playoffs and this series, tied 1-1, is shifting to New Jersey for Games 3 and 4.
Rogue elements of the Devils organization were seeking to freeze out Ranger fans from buying tickets, discouraging what was once an easy sell since the struggling Devils first moved to Newark in 2007. General manager Lou Lamoriello, publicly at least, expressed shock that his team's website would stoop to that.
The local constabulary has made a point of warning there would be an increased presence of officers around the arena if the ticket situation or anything else were to boil over. But no matter who wears what colour sweater on Saturday, 17,625 will definitely be heard at The Rock.
"I expect it will be the best game of the series," Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said after a practice that was equal parts high intensity and hijinks by the loose Devils. "We know the Rangers will push and play a great game and it's on us to do the same thing."
Martin Brodeur, who was able to laugh off the crowd abuse at MSG when his club hung on for a Game 2 win to spoil home-ice advantage, knows one reason the Rangers will be a different team.
"They finally have two days off to relax," the goalie said of New York ending its second consecutive seven-game series and playing the rested Devils two nights later. "They should be ready for us."
That said, Devils fans have something to crow about again in May, and possibly June, a decade after their past Cup.
"We've had a couple of overtime wins (against Florida and Philadelphia) and the fans have really been into it," Brodeur said. "They deserve it. It's hard to cheer your team on when they're not doing so well (3-7 at The Rock in playoffs before this spring, three losses to the Rangers after an overall run of 21-7 when the old barn closed). We want to get them into the game early."
Brodeur will be glad to get back on familiar ice after some wonky adventures with the surface at MSG.
"There are so many bad bounces, the ice is not good," he said after Game 2. "So mentally, it's a tough game to play because you really have to look at the puck all game long."
Brodeur amended that statement Friday to say every rink in the league has poorer quality ice at this time of the year. He's wary of getting into trouble again after he thought his comments on making the shot-blocking Rangers pay for their bravery was misconstrued that he wanted to see them deliberately injured by strategic shots to vulnerable body parts.
But the man who will have to weather the crowd storm now is Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers stopper was victimized by deflections in Game 2 as the Devils found a crafty way to get more pucks through.
"I thought we had more traffic in front (of the New York net) playing Ottawa or Washington," Lundqvist said Friday. "But Jersey has always been good knocking pucks down. Especially in the middle of the ice, if you try to go across or something like that, they're very good at going the other way. So you have to respect that. We've talked about a few things, and we're going to correct it and be better tomorrow.
"We'll see how the building will be. Hopefully we have a lot of fans."
But it's his teammates who will have to show up.