NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Neither the New Jersey Devils nor the Los Angeles Kings seem to be too concerned about who is on the ice against high-powered Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk was held to one fruitless shot in New Jersey’s 2-1 overtime loss to Los Angeles on Wednesday night in the opener of the Stanley Cup finals.
Early on in the game, Kovalchuk was matched up against Kings defensemen Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov. As the game progressed, the tandem Kovalchuk faced was Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he isn’t going into Game 2 looking to avoid either of those pairs.
“We played (Dan) Girardi and (Ryan) McDonagh against the Rangers. Same thing,” DeBoer said Friday of the Eastern Conference finals. “If they’re going to match those guys up in order to get him away, we’re going to have to get away from a four-line game, which has been another strength. If they’re matching up against Kovalchuk, then they’re not matching up against (Zach) Parise or other guys.
“The matchup game isn’t something that I’m interested in or worried about. For me, it isn’t relevant.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter echoed that sentiment. The Devils will have the advantage in Game 2 as they have the last change as the home team. That will shift to the Kings when the series moves to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 next week.
“Doesn’t really matter,” Sutter said. “I think it’s based on ice time, not so much ours. He’s out there a lot. If you start chasing a matchup during the game, that’s kind of a dinosaur. You start chasing it, pretty soon you’re just chasing the puck.
“You get guys tired or out of position. Rob Scuderi can handle that just as well as Willie Mitchell can. Slava and Drew, they’re right-handed guys that can skate and make plays. There’s not a big difference.”
The ultimate goal is to find a way to keep Kovalchuk in check.
“He’s got a lot of skill and he’s able to just hold the puck for that extra second to get him into position to take a shot, which is probably his best asset,” Scuderi said. “It’s something we’ve tried to focus on. You just don’t want to let a guy like that off the leash because he can really hurt you.
“He still had some good looks (in Game 1). I’m not sure if he missed or if it got tipped, but he had a couple of good opportunities. We’d like to bring those down to a minimum. The shots are just a stat. We’d like to take his chances down to nothing.”
BACK TO WORK: The well-rested Los Angeles Kings got back onto the ice Friday on the second day of a two-day break in the Stanley Cup finals.
After an optional practice on Thursday, the full roster ran drills in a workout that lasted a little less than an hour. They skated back and forth at the Devils’ practice arena, under three large banners commemorating New Jersey’s three Stanley Cup championships.
Los Angeles, 13-2 in the postseason, will carry a 1-0 series lead into Game 2 of the finals on Saturday night.
“Get the legs moving, break a sweat, and getting ready for tomorrow,” forward Anze Kopitar said. “I think everybody is a little itchy to get going again. It’s a fun time this time of the year and we’re going to be ready.”
The main arena rink wasn’t available for the teams on either off day because of concerts by the British rock band Radiohead. With so much time off, the Kings tried to make the most of their free time. They are used it because each of their first three series ended quickly.
“It’s sometimes nice to get an extra day, just to recharge and get the energy level back to where it needs to be,” Kopitar said. “Some guys are taking naps, some guys are going out for walks and stuff like that. Nothing too extraordinary.”
LOST HISTORY: While the Kings’ trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 1993 is a major component of hockey history in Los Angeles, it’s not a focal point for current players trying to win the franchise’s first NHL title.
“When we got brought in here we tried to start something new, a new chapter,” Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. “This organization, you are proud of what they did before you, but you want to write your own page in the history of this organization and that’s what we are trying to do.”
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, a native of Connecticut, had a different take on the club’s history that began when Los Angeles joined the NHL for the 1967-68 season.
“It’s an exciting time for everyone, not only for our organization but for all the fans in Los Angeles,” Quick said. “It’s been 19 years since we were last here, and in 45 years we haven’t won a Cup yet. So it’s something exciting to try to do for them.”
In their only other trip the finals, Los Angeles lost in five games to the Montreal Canadiens. The Kings won the first game, but the Canadiens took control in Game 2 after Marty McSorley was penalized for using an illegal stick.
GUMBY LIVES: With Jonathan Quick’s unusual flexibility, he has been referred to at times as Gumby — a clay, bendy television character from years before.
Although the Los Angeles Kings goalie is only 26, Quick is familiar with the old-school Gumby reference — sort of.
“I do remember the cartoons. Gumby is green, but the bad guys were red, right,” Quick asked. “Maybe I don’t remember as much as I thought, but I do remember Gumby. When I was younger, I think my grandmother used to call me it or something. I don’t know. I remember somebody used to call me it.”