Originally created 05/26/01

Devils look for latest home away from home



DENVER -- Once the Stanley Cup finals come around, the New Jersey Devils make playing on the road a perfect science.

The defending champions are back in the finals for the second straight year, and find themselves in what they consider the enviable position of being away from home. The Devils are playing for their third Stanley Cup, and have never lost a road game in the finals - going a combined 5-0 in 1995 and 2000.

"As far as our team is concerned, we've got to forget whether we are at home or ... we just have to focus on our jobs and do it," forward Randy McKay said Friday on the eve of the opener of the best-of-seven series against the Western Conference champion Colorado Avalanche.

Just being here makes goalie Martin Brodeur a happy man.

"This is what we play hockey for," said Brodeur, who won all those road games for New Jersey. "It is definitely a great time of the year and definitely just because we flew four hours I am a little tired.

"Maybe the smile comes easier like that."

In 1995, the Devils stunned the Red Wings in the finals by winning the first two games in Detroit. Once the series shifted to New Jersey, the Red Wings couldn't recover and were beaten in four straight.

Last year, the Devils and Stars split the first two games in New Jersey. In Dallas, the Devils again disappointed the home crowd twice to grab a 3-1 series lead. The Devils lost Game 5 at home, but dethroned the defending champions back in Dallas two nights later.

"You slow up, you put the fans - put everything behind," McKay, a two-time champion, said of road play. "You just keep your focus. Doesn't matter where we are going to play."

New Jersey captain Scott Stevens isn't ready to give up the title to Colorado, the 1996 champions.

"It would be a great accomplishment," Stevens said of a possible repeat. "We are getting a little ahead of ourselves, but there is no question it would be great to achieve that."

After the Devils and Avalanche won in consecutive years, the Red Wings came back to win in 1997 and 1998. Then it was Dallas' turn to reach the finals in consecutive years, followed by New Jersey's two straight trips.

"I think it is going to be very hard for a team to ever win back-to-back Stanley Cups," said Stevens, who is also looking for his third title with New Jersey. "Once you do that, I think it is a great honor if you can pull that off."

What the Devils would also like is more recognition in their home metropolitan area. They might have more of a chance this year with the New York Knicks long gone from the NBA playoffs, and the two New York baseball teams playing somewhat mediocre.

New Jersey's players are often recognized more away from home than in the confines of the Meadowlands. Maybe that explains their success in the road red sweaters.

"You get that indication when you go to visiting teams' buildings and you see a lot of jerseys around," McKay said. "Whether you go to Florida, end up going to Dallas, go wherever, you tend to see that.

"So, I think we get respect across the country which is really nice to see."

It remains to be seen whether the Devils will enjoy playing this year's finals in the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche play host to the first two games, as well as potential Games 5 and 7.

"I think it is going to be tough," center Jason Arnott said. "Watching them throughout the playoffs, they played extremely well and they are going to be tough to beat.

"We will just have to rise to that challenge."



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