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Elias: Best Devils team ever?

Random stuff from Friday morning's Devils skate at the Rock:

* Patrik Elias, 36, who has pretty much seen it all with the franchise, said "this is as good of a team as I've seen in my 15, 16 years here."

Really? What about the powerhouse Cup winners of 2000? "Trust me, those two years, 2000 and 2001, those two years were unbelievable," he said. "We knew if we just play good enough we’ll beat anybody. We had so much fun, so much firepower, so much skill, some great hockey players. It was fun to play with each other . . . Yes, I think we’re getting there now as a team, too."

* Zach Parise said he has noticed a buzz around the state surrounding the Devils' deep playoff run. "Yeah, people are starting to come out and be supportive now," he said. "They weren’t there in December.'' Then he laughed and added, "No, the fans here have been great. You can tell just walking around all the excitement going around. The people are just as excited as we are to be in this position. We hope we can take advantage of it."

* The Devils did not practice Tuesday or Thursday, while the Rangers did. Parise said he likes that about coach Peter DeBoer.

"It’s good for the rest," he said. "I thought we had a great start to last game and we had the energy. I think they’ve done a really good job of managing that and keeping us fresh throughout the whole playoffs."

* Ilya Kovalchuk, the highest paid Devil, set up the winning goal in Game 5 with a hard forecheck in the corner. In other words: The kind of dirty work star scorers are not always known for. His thoughts?

"It’s all those little plays that make a big difference," he said. "I was fortunate that I ended up in that situation and I just did exactly what anybody else would do. That’s what Pete wants us to do, first guy be very aggressive and put the pressure on their D. That’s what I did. Gio [Stephen Gionta] made the great play. He picked up the puck and made the unbelievable pass to Cart [Ryan Carter], so my job was easy there."

* Kovalchuk missed a game against the Flyers in the second round with a bad back. How's he feeling now?

"I feel good," he said. "I missed that game against Philly and the doctors took care of everything and I was feeling good since then."

* Coach Peter DeBoer was asked about how Martin Brodeur's puck handling allows for strategic advantages. He said this:

"His puck-handling ability, I can't overstate the value it's brought to us. It's why a big part of our game and some of our system play is based around the fact we have the best puck-handling goaltender of all time."

* DeBoer on the sales job he had to do on his veterans when he took over before this season: "I don't think there was any premeditated salesmanship. I can tell you if I was a used car salesman, I'd starve to death."

* DeBoer on Henrik Lundqvist giving up three goals on the first five shots in Game 5: "We're not counting on that again. And we expect him to have his best game in the series. That's what this time's all about. You want them to throw their best game at you and we want to bring our best game and may the best team win.

* Any planned lineup changes for the Devils? "No," DeBoer said.


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