Originally written on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 4/2/12

Though they missed them last season, the playoffs are nothing new to the Devils. They are back and looking to make a run at the Stanley Cup. While they’ve been a staple in the playoffs since the new millennium started, the Devils have had relatively short appearances in recent postseasons.

Since New Jersey’s last Stanley Cup title, 2003, they’ve made it out of the first round only twice in six playoff appearances. And both of those times they were nearly swept by their second round opponent.

A trip to the finals will not come easy for the Devils. As it stands now they will take on the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers to open up the playoffs. The Devils went 2-2 against the Panthers this season. On paper the Devils would be the favorites to win a series against Florida; they’ve been the more consistent team this season. It would be an added bonus for Devils head coach Peter DeBoer to battle the Panthers in the playoffs and beat them, since he was the bench boss there last season.

After Florida it only gets tougher for the Devils. A potential matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins would be an enormous challenge. In the final two meetings of the season, the Pens dropped the Devils 5-2 in both games. The Penguins are the best team in the East, even if the standings don’t reflect that; and with Sidney Crosby back in the lineup they are even more dangerous.

Of course New Jersey could draw the Rangers or Bruins. Neither would be an easy series and the Devils' luck in the second round wouldn’t help. Both years they managed to move past the conference quarterfinals, they drew teams that would go on to the Stanley Cup final. In 2006 the Devils fell in five games to the Carolina Hurricanes, who would go on to win the Cup. The following year they lost in five games to the Ottawa Senators, who represented the East in the final.

That’s good news for whatever team gets them in the second round, but bad news for the Devils and their fans.

For New Jersey to break their Cup drought they’ll need a few things to happen. Martin Brodeur will need to keep up his strong play into the postseason. For the 14th time in his career he will hit the 30-win mark in a season. His record stands at 29-21-4, so his next win will be his 30th. Ilya Kovalchuk will need to keep his hot hand going. The 28-year-old winger has scored 30-plus goals for the ninth consecutive year in a row and will need to lead the offensive charge like he has all season.

They’ll also need surprise scorer David Clarkson to continue to chip in. Clarkson set a career high this season scoring 30 goals after only hitting the back of the net 12 times last season. Guys like Adam Henrique, Zach Parise, and Patrick Elias will also need to be clutch if the Devils are to make a deep run.

For guys like Brodeur and Elias it may be their last chance to win the Stanley Cup. Also, Parise will be a free agent this summer. One assume there will be desperation from New Jersey to make a deep run.

But the questions remains: Do the Devils have what it takes to make deep run this year?

Photo credit: Getty Images

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