Covering the NBA and NHL playoffs has given me new appreciation for the work of hoops and hockey writers, whose schedule often includes split shifts in which they attend shootarounds/skates in the morning, then return for a game late into the night.

OK, granted, it beats other jobs, like cleaning the bathrooms at Penn Station or covering baseball. But still, it's a demanding lifestyle.

Anyway, to give myself something to do at the Devils' morning skate Wednesday I asked a couple of their stars what they think of the Garden ice, what with their goaltender, Martin Brodeur having sharply criticized it - along with the Garden's quirky boards - after Game 2.

Said Zach Parise:

"The ice is usually really choppy, and I feel like the second half of the period the puck's always rolling. Both teams are playing on the same thing. But yeah, you feel like you never get a real bounce off the boards, either. There's always a wacky bounce coming off. But like I said, both teams are playing with it, so it makes it even.

"You have to bear down a little bit. Late in a period you try in your own zone to keep the puck out of the middle, just small things like that because you just don't know with the ice whether it's going to bounce or it's not going to stay flat."

Said Ilya Kovalchuk:

"The ice was bad, but the ice is the same for both teams, so I don't think that should be an excuse for anybody. You have to find a way to do the right things on the ice."

How does the Garden compare to the Rock? Said Parise: "It's hot. It's definitely hot in our building. But I think our guys have done a good job of keeping the ice pretty good. It's hot outside and it's humid but our guys have done a good job."

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