You’re 19 only once.
That’s the good news for Devil defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky, a former Duck who is making his second playoff return to the Arrowhead Pond with his second new team.
His initial return didn’t go so well. He hopes this one goes better.
Tverdovsky, traded Feb. 7, 1996, to the Winnipeg Jets (who would become the Phoenix Coyotes beginning in the 1996-97 season) in the Teemu Selanne deal, got a bit emotional upon learning that his new team would be playing his old one in the opening round of the ’97 playoffs.
“I hate those guys, I hope we beat their rear ends,” is essentially what he said as the Coyotes’ bus drove away from the arena after their final regular-season game. It would have been no big deal, mere back-of-the-bus bravado, but a reporter was along for the ride and put the quote in his story the next day.
Pond fans razzed Tverdovsky each time he handled the puck during a memorable seven-game series, won by the Ducks four games to three.
All was forgiven when Tverdovsky rejoined the Ducks in a trade from Phoenix on June 6, 1999. The Ducks then traded him to the Devils on July 6, 2002.
“It got blown out of proportion,” Tverdovsky said of his statements in April 1997. “It got on tape what I said. It was a mess. The fans got mad and I understood why. All of a sudden, I became an enemy. I wasn’t mad. I never meant anything like that. It was a long time ago. I’m not 19 any more. My emotions are under control.”
New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur had this to say about Duck goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere: “He’s not playing bad. He’s made some great saves. His team is not giving him any offensive support. I feel he’s playing as well as he did before.”
Coach Pat Burns said the Devils haven’t done anything the Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars or Minnesota Wild didn’t do in stationing players in front of Giguere to deflect shots from the perimeter.
“I watched a lot of tape of the other games,” Burns said. “The other teams did that too. I think it’s a question of breaks and bounces that we happened to get that the other teams didn’t.”
The Devils last left the Eastern time zone to play a game on March 5, when they lost to the Flames at Calgary, 5-4, one of the many striking differences between teams in the Eastern and Western conferences.
The Devils played Boston, Tampa Bay and Ottawa -- all within two hours of North Jersey by air -- in the opening rounds of the playoffs. The Ducks played Detroit (Eastern time zone), Dallas (Central) and Minnesota (Central) in their opening rounds -- none closer than three hours by air.
Injured forwards Joe Nieuwendyk and Turner Stevenson did not travel with the team Friday and it’s uncertain whether they will be fit to play at all in the Stanley Cup finals.