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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 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
7 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
8 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
9 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 54 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 52 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 54 12 19 8 31
K. Versteeg 53 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 54 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 54 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 47 7 12 0 19
J. Nordstrom 43 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 54 3 11 -11 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 6 .908 2.38
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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