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Just Vin, baby

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http://www.nypost.com/seven/04122007/sport...rson.htm?page=0

JUST VIN, BABY

DEVILS TARGET LECAVALIER

By MARK (N)Єverson

LIGHTNING ROD: Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier led the NHL in goals with 52 this season. He'll be on the Devils' mind in Game 1 tonight.

April 12, 2007 -- The Devils sought him in 2001, stifled him in 2003, and sweat him now. Shutting down Vincent Lecavalier is their first task in the first round.

The Lightning captain led the NHL with 52 goals this season, and the lowest-scoring team in these playoffs can't afford to let 1998's first-overall draftee duplicate that dominance in the series that opens at the Meadowlands tonight.

"He's got everything," Martin Brodeur said. "He has the size and he doesn't shy away from anything. He has the green light to try anything he wants.

"We're going to have to play him hard and get him off his game. We can't give him space or let him skate. We have to make him start and stop all game long, get him as tired as we can. We can't let them swing, because it plays into their game."

Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella keeps sending his best players over the boards, giving Lecavalier an amazing average ice time of 22:36 this season, but surpassed by the marathon workloads of super sidekick Martin St. Louis (24:09) and 2004 Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards (24:06).

"John Tortorella is a very demanding coach," said Devils defenseman Brad Lukowich, who won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004. "He pushes the right buttons to get his players to play their best.

"He's going to play his guys. He knows what they can do, and he'll double-shift them. And they can handle it because they're in such tremendous shape."

That conditioning, Lukowich said, is no accident.

"Training camp is Camp Torture-ella. It felt like five days with no pucks," Lukowich said. "I've never been in a camp like his, and he demands it all season long.

"That's why those guys can play those minutes and be going on offense all the time."

Lecavalier turns 27 on April 21, but it wasn't always jolly times in Tampa. In Tortorella's second season as Lightning coach, Lecavalier slumped to 37 points and was a constant in trade rumors. The Devils are believed to have offered a package led with Jason Arnott, but would not make 2000 Rookie of the Year Scott Gomez the key. In the end, Lecavalier stayed put, and this season he cracked 100 points (108) for the first time.

"I think he's the most underrated guy in the league," Lukowich said. "I can't understand why people doubt what he's done."

Those in New Jersey might remember how the Devils embarrassed him during their five-game second-round triumph in 2003, limiting Lecavalier to one assist as he went minus-5. The next season, Lecavalier had nine goals and 16 points as the Lightning won the Cup. Lecavalier followed that by being named World Cup MVP before the lockout shut down the NHL.

The Devils expect a different Lecavalier from the one they stopped in 2003. They'll have to play a prevent defense, which opens up the short outlets.

"He likes to go for the long pass. We have to stay on him and not give him any time," said Brian Rafalski, likely to see so much of Lecavalier in this series. "He led the league in goals. We're certainly going to keep our eye on him."

Sergei Brylin, part of the Devils' checking line, said, "They have a lot of set plays because they've played together so long. Sometimes they're not even looking, fire it up the middle and get a breakaway. We really have to be aware of that."

They've shut down Lecavalier before. If they can do it again, the Devils might be halfway to the second round.

*

The Devils shuffled defense pairs yesterday in practice, Johnny Oduya with Lukowich, Andy Greene with Paul Martin. . . . Erik Rasmussen returned from flu for practice. . . . Martin Brodeur enters the playoffs with 21 career shutouts, two short of Patrick Roy's record. Brodeur has played 153 playoff games, third behind Roy's record 247 and Ed Belfour's 161.

mark.(N)Єverson@nypost.com

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"The Devils shuffled defense pairs yesterday in practice, Johnny Oduya with Lukowich, Andy Greene with Paul Martin"

Does that mean Oduya is moving up or down?

I'm guessing up.

We'll see White-Raffi and Oduya-Luko against the double shifting 1st line Lightning.

Look for Martin-Greene out there to generate some offense... and hope they don't get caught out there against Vinnie

BTW, after (N)Єverson spent all of that time talking about TB, you think he would try to do what I did, which was tie together the shifting of the d-pairs and the extra TOI TB's first line gets.

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"He's got everything," Martin Brodeur said. "He has the size and he doesn't shy away from anything. He has the green light to try anything he wants.

"We're going to have to play him hard and get him off his game. We can't give him space or let him skate. We have to make him start and stop all game long, get him as tired as we can. We can't let them swing, because it plays into their game."

I'm glad our goalie understands this since he can do a whole lot about it. :doh1::P

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