The Devils defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-1, in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal on Wednesday night, but they know the Hurricanes are probably going to play better in Game 2 tonight at Prudential Center to try to avoid falling in an 0-2 series hole.
"You certainly have to expect Carolina to play a very good game here tonight and we have to make sure for ourselves that we keep our foot on the pedal and use our last game as a stepping stone to improve too and be better," Devils coach Brent Sutter said after today's optional morning skate.
Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour took part in the team's morning skate and said he will play tonight after skipping Thursday's practice.
Carolina coach Paul Maurice said he would probably change his line combinations around a little, but wouldn't get into specifics about that or if he will make any lineup changes.
"We'll move some guys in and around a little bit," Maurice said. "We probably didn't have anybody individually stand out worse than anybody else, but we've got some players that we think can bring some life and some jump into our lineup."
Brind'Amour will likely center Sergei Samsonov and Patrik Eaves. Matt Cullen, who played on the fourth line Wednesday in his first game back from a foot injury, will move between Ray Whitney and Chad LaRose.
If Maurice were to insert some different players in his lineup, center Dwight Helminen and left wing Ryan Bayda are the likely candidates.
Two years ago, defenseman Mike Mottau was a 29-year-old career minor leaguer who had played 23 NHL games in hsi career. Now, he's got two seasons of NHL experience under his belt and the Devils trust him enough that they used him head to head for much Game 1 against Carolina's top line of Erik Cole, Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu. Mottau also scored the Devils' first goal in that game -- his second goal in six career NHL playoff games.
"I don't score that many goals, so it's exciting any time it hits the back of the net," Mottau said this morning.
Mottau appreciates the opportunity he has received and he's made the most of it. His plus-24 defensive rating was the best among Devils' defensemen during the regular season.
"It's exciting no matter what for any player," Mottau said of playing in the playoffs. "For me, it's especially exciting and to have that year of experience last year and then another year this year, I know what's expected of me. To be able to focus on playing your best hockey when it's needed is really important."
Sutter recalled this morning how Mottau earned his way on to the team in training camp last season.
"He got a chance to play in an exhibition game and I thought he was the best player on the ice that night," Sutter said. "He played again two nigths later and again he played extremely well and it's just been snowballing since then for him. He's been able to crack our lineup and he was a guy that was 29 years old at the time."
Sutter said special assignment goaltending coach Chris Terreri is in town now because Lowell is not in the AHL playoffs.
"There's no real reason," Sutter said. "Obviously Lowell is not in the playoffs and Trenton is still playing and he's been spending some time in Trenton with the guys there and now he can come up here and spend some time with us here."