Although Sean Avery is back with the Rangers now, Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur doesn't think that facing him tonight at Madison Square Garden will be any different than when Avery visited Prudential Center with the Dallas Stars on Oct. 22 and the Devils won 5-0.
"Not at all," Brodeur said. "It's the same. He's a player on their team, trying to do our job regardless of where he plays. Definitely, people put more emphasis (on it) because he's with the Rangers."
A lot of people will be watching if anything happens between Avery and Brodeur tonight, but Brodeur isn't worried about that.
"You can't worry about what people are looking at," Brodeur said. "If I start doing that, I would go crazy because a lot of people are looking what I do all the time. Regardless of how I play, how I act or whatever, it's just part of what I am and what I am do. If I let these things affect who I am and how I play, I'm not doing it the right way. To me, it's just going to be the same situation as when Sean Avery came with Dallas. We won 5-0, so it didn't really affect me then. So it shouldn't affect me right now."
Devils coach Brent Sutter said more is being made of the Avery-Brodeur angle than is warranted. The Devils' concern is on getting back on track after losing their last four games.
"It's such a non-issue," Sutter said. It's not the center of what's happening here. All that is is a sideshow that people want to make it a sideshow. This is about the New Jersey Devils trying to do what we need to do to get our game back to where we want to get it to and continuing to push forward and I suposed the New York Rangers want to play well and do the same thing to get themselves in a playoff situation. That's what this game is about.
"All this stuff about Marty and Avery, it makes a great storyline, but it's totally irrelevant about what's going on."
Left wing Brendan Shanahan had a different perspective from anyone else in the Devils' locker room because he played with the Rangers last season and is friends with Avery. He said the players aren't nearly as concerned with the Brodeur-Avery storyline as some in the media are.
"As players, it's less of a story," Shanahan said. "They're on a two-game losing streak. We're on a four-game losing streak. We're all a couple of weeks from the playoffs and the bigger story for both teams is trying to get a win."
Shanahan was one of the few who were supportive of Avery after he was suspended for his comments about former girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert.
"I'd like to think I'm supportive of all of my teammates," Shanahan said. "I think that's when you need to support somebody (when they're in trouble). Supporting somebody and agreeing with everything they do and say are completely different."
When you push aside all of the antics --waving his hands and stick in Brodeur's face in Game 3 of the playoffs last season -- and sometimes coarse behavior -- insulting Brodeur and making comments about his messy divorce and family life -- Avery was an effective player for the Rangers against the Devils last season. He had three goals and two assists in the Rangers' five-game first-round playoff win over the Devils last season. The game in which Avery waved his stick in Brodeur's face to try to screen him was the only game the Rangers lost in the series.
"I thought he was important for us last year (in the playoffs) as he was the year before," Shanahan said. "I don't think anyone denies that when Sean is focused on playing hockey, he's an effective hockey player. I think he's remembered more for the incident in the crease, but if that never happened he'd be remembered as having a pretty effective playoff series.
"As players we do our best to just focus on the ice and on the game and neutralizing our opponent. I see him as one of the Rangers."
Shanahan wouldn't speculate on whether the Avery-Brodeur sideshow had a significant impact on Brodeur or the rest of the Devils last season.
"I can't say whether it did one way or the other," Shanahan said. "That's last year. A lot of things have changed since then. A lot of people have changed. The proximity of the two teams in the standings have changed. Their coaching staff has changed."