The hatred that has at times bordered on religious fervor this season was nowhere to be found one day before the Rangers and Devils begin their Eastern?Conference finals tilt.
“It should be fun,” Brandon Prust said. “Good rivalry, we’re ready to go. The blood’s still flowing so it’s good to get back into it.”
The teams split the regular season series with the Rangers finishing 3-2-1, while the Devils went 3-3-0.
“I am excited it’s the Rangers. Anybody that coaches or plays wants to play your main rival in this type of situation,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said in his media availability following practice, which he left early due to illness. “So I don’t think it gets any better than that. That’s the type of environment you want to play in. And so I think we're very excited that we’ll get an opportunity at the best team in the Eastern Conference. They have the most points, and we’re going to throw our best at them and see if it’s good enough.
“We play a similar style. Both defense oriented. We had some great battles during the regular season. I think we ended up splitting or they ended up a point ahead on a shootout win, I can’t remember the exact record. But I think that the styles of play are real similar, and it should make for some real hard-nosed hockey,” DeBoer said.
“Obviously the intensity we had this season will carry over, sure. We’re two teams that don’t like each other,” Prust said. “I’m sure it’s going to carry over, maybe not with as many fights but you never know what’s going to happen. Doubt that it’s going to happen, but don’t be surprised if it does.”
While acknowledging that the Atlantic Division rivals know each other, Rangers head coach John Tortorella said the Rangers began scouting the Devils during the series against Washington. The Devils had been relegated to waiting for an opponent after eliminating the Flyers last Tuesday.
Patrik Elias and Zach Parise said that they did not watch the Rangers’ 2-1 win over the Capitals in Game 7. Brodeur said he watched the entire game and Ilya Kovalchuk admitted to having “watched the first two periods.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman for everything you need to know about the intense Rangers-Devils Eastern Conference finals matchup.