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Road to Cup Goes Through Jersey (Again)

Monday, 04.13.2009 / 1:29 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Road to Cup Goes Through Jersey (Again)
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.

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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.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81