May 30, 2012
Kings, Devils ready to go
By Rob Longley, QMI Agency
NEWARK, N.J. - With long layoffs since winning their conference championships, the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings are anxious and well rested.
Tonight they will begin to find out if it was worth the wait.
The Stanley Cup final combatants each began the playoffs as long shots, ranked well below the conference powerhouses. But with solid goaltending, impressive forward depth and teams that seemed to get better as the playoffs moved along, they begin their best-of-seven battle for the famous trophy here at the Prudential Center.
It couldn’t happen any sooner.
“You’re tired of waiting around, you’re tired of looking at film, you want to play,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said following his team’s morning skate. “It’s anxious energy. Whatever I’m feeling, I’m sure it’s doubled for the players.”
The teams met twice in the regular-season with the Devils winning both. But both of those games were in October and each team is vastly different now. The Kings just squeaked into the post season as the eighth-seed in the Western Conference then knocked off, in order, No. 1 Vancouver, No. 2 St. Louis and No. 3 Phoenix.
The Devils were the sixth-seed in the East and after a hard-fought seven-game series with the Florida Panthers in the first round they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in five and the New York Rangers in six games.
The Devils are decided underdogs according to Las Vegas oddsmakers despite having home-ice advantage. Of course that means little against the Kings who are a perfect 8-0 on the road where they have outscored their opponents 30-13, and they did it against the top three teams in the Western Conference.
The Devils are trying to play down the magnitude of the opener but with five days off since eliminating the Rangers (the Kings have been idle for eight) it hasn’t been easy.
“Our meetings and everything this morning, preparation, everything has been the same,” Devils captain Zach Parise said. “I’m sure once we get to the rink tonight the nerves will be a little different than every other game, but so far it’s been the same.”
The Devils and the Kings are each defined by their strong goaltending. For New Jersey, 40-year-old Martin Brodeur is seeking a fourth Cup while Los Angeles has Jonathan Quick, one of hot young superstars at the position.
New Jersey forwards found a way to get traffic in front of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the last round and plan to do the same to Quick.
Both teams used strong starts to their advantage throughout the playoffs, a strategy they will attempt to continue.
“It’s the Stanley Cup Final, both teams got here for a reason,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “Both teams are going to try to play that way.”