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Road to Cup Goes Through Jersey (Again)

Monday, 04.13.2009 / 1:29 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
Another postseason, another date with the Devils.

For the fourth time in five playoff appearances since moving to North Carolina, the Hurricanes will face New Jersey in the playoffs. Carolina has won two of the three prior series, including consecutive meetings in 2002 and 2006, both years that saw the Canes advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Paul Branecky
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“We always seem to hit Jersey in the playoffs. That’s standard for us,” said Coach Paul Maurice. 

In perhaps not great news for the Canes, the team with home ice advantage won all three prior series. The Devils, the higher-seeded team this time around, host the first two games on Wednesday and Friday before the action shifts to Raleigh on Sunday and Tuesday.

For the season series, the Canes won both of their home games and split their two games at New Jersey, both of which came in the last two weeks of the regular season. The Devils avoided the sweep with a 3-2 victory this past Saturday with the help of two odd bounces from the same area of the Prudential Center boards.

“Don’t dump it into the one corner,” said Eric Staal of what the team learned from Saturday’s preview. “Unless you’re going on offense.”

With great play in goal, responsible defense and skilled players up front, the Canes and Devils seem to match up fairly evenly. If the Hurricanes have one advantage entering the series, it’s momentum. Although they lost their last two games of the season after a postseason berth had been wrapped up, they posted a 13-3-2 record to close the year. 

Meanwhile, the Devils were 11-8-1 during the same time period, including a season-high six-game losing streak that ended on April 3.  However, the Devils may have turned it around at the right time with four wins in their last five games.

If both teams play the way they’re capable of, expect a long, back-and-forth series.

“In the games that we’ve played against this team going back, I don’t really remember a blowout one way or another,” said Maurice. “Great goaltending, both teams work really hard in the small areas of the ice and there will be a lot of grind and a lot of close-scoring games.”

Matt Cullen returned to practice today for the first time since playing in a limited role on March 21 against Washington and will play in Game 1 on Wednesday. At this morning’s session, he centered the fourth line between Tim Conboy and Patrick Eaves, with Jussi Jokinen keeping his spot on the second unit.

“Matt looked real good, so he would go back in,” said Maurice. “I don’t think right out of the gate that we’ll take Jokinen out of that spot. He’s been too good there, and we’ve won a lot of games with him there. With a guy coming off a longer-term injury than we had hoped, it’s difficult to throw him into that pace right away.”

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SCHEDULE

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STANDINGS

[SSS_STANDINGS.METROPOLITAN_DIVISION_LABEL]
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
2 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
3 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
4 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
5 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
6 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
7 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
8 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 79 21 40 -13 61
J. Skinner 71 33 21 -14 54
A. Sekera 74 11 33 4 44
A. Semin 65 22 20 1 42
J. Staal 82 15 25 2 40
J. Faulk 76 5 27 -9 32
N. Gerbe 81 16 15 -6 31
J. Tlusty 68 16 14 2 30
R. Nash 73 10 14 0 24
P. Dwyer 75 8 14 -2 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 19 14 1 .926 2.30
C. Ward 10 12 6 .898 3.06
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