NEWARK -- Five seasons into their stay at Prudential Center, the Devils have gone farther in the playoffs than they have since moving from the Meadowlands, and they believe some of the credit goes to people not wearing skates.
"They've made this a great place to play,'' captain Zach Parise said of Devils fans, a group traditionally not as large or vocal as their counterparts at Madison Square Garden. "They have made it loud. I think we feed off that. Our team plays better when they are loud and making it tough in here. I would assume [Saturday] it'll be the best it's been in the playoffs.''
Normally it is not news when a fan base gets excited about a team in the conference finals. But the Devils' situation is complicated by the fact that they are facing the Rangers, whose fans have spent three decades filling thousands of seats on this side of the Hudson whenever the teams meet.
That is certain to happen again for Game 3 Saturday, but the Devils and their players are confident the effect will not be as pronounced as in the past. (Traveling Flyers fans kept a lower profile than usual in the previous round.)
Earlier in the week, the team sought aggressively to keep Rangers fans out by encouraging Devils supporters to sell only to fellow travelers on the secondary market. The Devils later removed the "No Blue'' campaign from their website but the concern might have been overstated in the first place.
The Rock has rocked through the first two rounds, and players expect more of the same.
When asked after practice Friday whether there has been more energy in the building than in past years, goaltender Martin Brodeur said: "Oh, definitely . . . It's been great. We had a couple of overtime games and people were into it.''
Whether the fans have helped the Devils or the Devils have inspired the fans, the fact is the team is 4-1 at home in the playoffs and was 8-1-1 in its last 10 regular-season home games.
Ilya Kovalchuk said he has noticed the added juice in the region, especially since the matchup with the Rangers was set.
"All of the New York area is following it and talking about it,'' he said. "I think it's fun for everyone . . . I'm sure it'll be a crazy atmosphere [Saturday]."