Work in Sports
Skate and wait
Devils follow Toronto-Ottawa series with interest
Posted: Saturday April 22, 2000 08:27 PM
WEST ORANGE, N.J. (AP) -- With time to rest after sweeping the Florida Panthers in the opening round of the playoffs, the New Jersey Devils seemed more worried about themselves Saturday than their second-round opponent.
The Devils will face either the winner of Toronto-Ottawa series when the second round gets underway within a week.
"They have very similar styles," said interim coach Larry Robinson after the Devils skated less than 30 minutes at South Mountain Arena. "Both have a lot of speed, exciting players, good goaltenders, mobile defense and good specialty teams, so it doesn't matter."
Toronto posted a 3-0-1 mark against the Devils in the season series, while New Jersey won the series with Ottawa by the same 3-0-1 margin.
While Robinson said the Devils must improve in the next round, the workout on Saturday just kept them loose.
Veteran defensemen Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko and forwards Jason Arnott, Jay Pandolfo and Sergei Nemchinov didn't skate. Forward Sergei Brylin, who bruised his knee in Game 2 against Florida, worked out by himself.
"There are going to be only eight teams left in the NHL and it doesn't matter who we play against," said Brylin, who hopes to play in the second round after missing the final two games against the Panthers. "It will be hard. There are no bad teams left in the playoffs. Everybody is going to play hard against us."
When practice resumes in earnest on Monday, Robinson is going to work on the Devils' power play, which was 2 of 16 against Florida.
"We're passing up opportunities to shoot," Robinson said. "We're not winning those little battles for the loose puck like we can, and when we do have opportunities, we are not burying them. We are not hungry enough and focused enough to bury them."
In fact, the only two power-play goals the Devils scored came from makeshift lines.
Robinson isn't going to change his power play, which was among the best in the regular season.
"We have to realize that teams scout your tendencies, and when you become too predictable that makes your power play that much more difficult," he said. "Now we are just being too predictable. When we played well, we really kept it simple."
The power play might have been the only part of their game that struggled as the Devils advanced to the second round for the first time since 1997. Martin Brodeur and the defense only allowed six goals, including one by Pavel Bure, who led the NHL with 58 goals in the regular season.
"We played fairly well and we did things we had to do to win," said Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer, who returned after a 10-game suspension resulting from a late-season stick-swinging incident and scored two goals, including the series winner in Game 4.
"We have to build off that," he added. "I still don't think we played our best for the full four games of the series. If we can just continue to get better, that will get us on our way."
Since the playoffs started, Robinson said the Devils have played hard and done their jobs. When they struggled late in the season, there were times they tried to do too much.
"As you go on in the playoffs, it gets tougher and tougher," Robinson said. "You not only have to get on a roll, you have to improve. The later you go, the less weaknesses you can have. You have to hit on all cylinders."