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Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Updated: May 21, 5:44 PM ET
Devils pledge discipline in Game 6

By EJ Hradek
ESPN The Magazine

WEST ORANGE, N.J. -- The Devils are a pretty proud bunch. And why shouldn't they be? After all, Lou Lamoriello's team has been among the NHL's best for nearly a decade.

Game 6 Notes
• Devils coach Pat Burns was noncommittal on any possible lineup changes for Game 6.

"We're going to discuss that tonight and we'll see tomorrow," he said Tuesday.

The most obvious change could come on defense, where gritty veteran Ken Daneyko could return to the lineup. Daneyko and Oleg Tverdovsky played in Game 1 of the series, but were replaced by Tommy Albelin and Richard Smehlik in Game 2. Albelin and Smehlik were on the ice for the Martin Havlat's game-winning goal in the third period of Game 5.

• Ottawa centers Jason Spezza, Todd White and Bryan Smolinski did an excellent job on faceoffs in Game 5. Spezza went 8-for-9, White was 10-for-14 and Smolinski was 6-for-7. On the flip side, Devils pivot Pascal Rheaume won only 3 of 17. Spezza's clean win over Rheaume on a third-period power play led directly to Spezza's insurance goal.
So, when they suffer a setback -- like Monday's 3-1 Game 5 loss to the Senators in Ottawa -- they know exactly whom to blame.

"When we lose, most of the time, we feel it's because of us," said goalie Martin Brodeur. "We take a lot of pride in our game. We have a lot of success when we do the things we're supposed to do."

Two-way center John Madden -- the leading scorer among players still active in the Cup chase with 14 points -- echoed his goaltender's feeling about the Game 5 loss.

"We didn't play well enough," Madden said. "We just didn't play a full 60 minutes. The effort was there, but we played in flurries. There was no consistency."

The Devils' inability to stay out of the penalty box was part of their problem. The Atlantic Division champs were whistled for seven penalties -- some questionable -- by referees Paul Devorski and Kevin Pollack.

"We've got to be better defensively and we have to be more disciplined," said Brodeur, when asked how his club could improve for Wednesday's Game 6. "No matter who you are, you can't spend all night killing penalties."

For one, Brodeur -- who termed some of the Game 5 calls, "so-so" -- figures his team should get a better shake in Game 6 on home ice at Continental Airlines Arena, where the Devils are 8-0 this postseason.

"I think it's a part of the home-ice advantage," Brodeur said, referring to the home team's tendency to receive more favorable consideration by officials. "It seems like it just works out that way."

In this series, at least, Brodeur might be on to something. In three road games, the Devils have been called for 16 minor penalties (5.33 a game). In the two games at home, the Devils have been called for just six (three a game). In each of the five games, the home team has enjoyed at least one more power play per game. In Game 5, the Senators received four more power-play opportunities than the Devils.

Devils coach Pat Burns, who wasn't armed with those stats, didn't rule out the possibility that home team was getting a little better deal.

"It could be," said Burns, who later jokingly referred to the series as a battle of "plastic weenies (thunder sticks) vs. towels," when asked about the fans in both buildings. "But, the referees you see now (in the conference finals) are experienced and they've been through these situations. I have confidence in those experienced guys."

Confident in? Maybe. Pleased with? Not in Game 5.

"I don't have a problem with what wasn't called," Burns said. "I have a problem with what was called. Little minor hookings and holdings, that's all part of competing right now."

Devils captain Scott Stevens, wise enough not to get too far into the officiating debate, was a bit surprised about the number of penalties called in Game 5. But, like his teammates, he has put the loss in the rearview mirror, knowing the team will have to play better on Wednesday.

"We've got another chance to put this away," Stevens said. "We'll just need to bring our best game to the rink."

E.J. Hradek writes hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at ej.hradek@espnmag.com.