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Monday, April 7

Updated: April 7, 7:31 PM ET

Madden's defensive skills to be tested again

Associated Press

WEST ORANGE, N.J. -- Wherever Joe Thornton goes in the Boston Bruins' first-round playoff series with New Jersey, expect John Madden of the Devils to be right there with him.

John Madden
New Jersey Devils
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That's nothing new for Madden. Shadowing the opposition's top player has been his job for years. It just gets magnified in the playoffs, especially when the player he's assigned to guard is a budding superstar.

Madden will be severely tested in the best-of-seven series that opens Wednesday night in East Rutherford, N.J.

Thornton finished third in the league with 36 goals and 65 assists. In the process, he became the Bruins' first 100-point scorer since Adam Oates in 1993-94.

''There is nothing lacking in his game,'' Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko said of Thornton. ''We're not going to keep him off the board, but we have to limit him. He can win a series by himself because he makes everyone around him that much better if he is on top of his game.''

The 23-year-old Thornton scored three goals in four regular-season games against the Devils, but didn't have a shot on net in the two games played in Boston.

Madden had a goal and two assists against Boston this season, but isn't making too much of that. The playoffs are another season in which he and linemates Jay Pandolfo and Turner Stevenson will have to outplay Thornton, Glen Murray (44 goals, 48 assists) and Mike Knuble (30 goals, 29 assists).

''They're really good,'' Madden said of Thornton's line. ''They move the puck well inside the zone and at least one of them seems to be in shooting position all the time, stick on the ice and ready to let it go.''

Madden, who won the Selke Award as the league's top defensive forward two years ago, isn't one to goof off much.

''Mads is very quick, he dogs the pucks, and gets in your face,'' Daneyko said. ''He can be a pest and get under the skin of the other star players.

''He is a smart hockey player. He knows what has to be done. The biggest factor is he works hard and takes pride in stopping the other team's best player.''

Right wings Brian Gionta played with Madden and Pandolfo for a couple of games this season, and he said Madden is very focused.

''He knows where to be defensively and what you are trying to do,'' Gionta said. ''He is quick. He has a lot of skills, so he can react and jump on the plays. His hockey sense is great.''

If there is a disadvantage, it's Thornton's size. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder is five inches taller than Madden and 35 pounds heavier.

''I think the biggest thing you don't sense is how strong he is,'' Madden said. ''He is young, but he is a strong man. When he puts his arm on you and cuts in, you feel it. You don't get that sense just watching him. It looks like he does everything so easy but it's because he is so strong.''

Goaltender Martin Brodeur said the Devils need more than defense to beat the Bruins. They played great defense against Carolina in the opening round of the playoffs last season and were eliminated in six games.

''We played those six games and allowed nine goals,'' Brodeur said. ''That should have been enough to at least get us a seventh game. It didn't happen for us. We played pretty good. We just ran into a hot goalie, or goalies, because they used two of them.''

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