EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- At the mention of the words "dirty play," a smile briefly appeared on the face of New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens.
It was hard to tell whether the Devils captain was laughing at the accusations the Toronto Maple Leafs are making about him or wondering how anybody could confuse tough physical play with being dirty.
Either way, Stevens didn't really care Sunday after the Devils held a short team meeting. All that was important was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal on tonight at the Continental Airlines Arena.
If the Devils win, they advance to the conference championship round for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 1995 and they extend the Maple Leafs' Cup drought to 33 years.
New Jersey moved within a game of the conference final by beating the Maple Leafs 4-3 in Toronto. Stevens helped set the tone Saturday night with devastating open-ice hits on Tomas Kaberle and Kevyn Adams.
Those hits didn't upset the Maple Leafs as much as what they claim are little extra whacks and punches that Stevens takes during plays. Toronto claims they have not been called by the referees in the series.
After 18 NHL seasons, Stevens admits it's upsetting being called a dirty player for the first time.
"I find that hard to understand," Stevens said. "I know what type of player I am and it doesn't bother me. Sometimes you have to look at the source. I feel I am a very clean hockey player. I always keep my elbows down and use my shoulder, and I'm not going to change.
"I think we don't see enough of that anymore," Stevens said about his physical play. "I think it's too much of a free-style European game and we need more of the good, hard hitting, personally. I think it makes for a good hockey game, and we need to get back to it a little."