NEWARK, N.J. — For Canes defenseman Joe Corvo, playing the New Jersey Devils means a lot of things, none of them pleasurable.
It's dealing with the Devils' deliberate, defensive, wait-for-a-mistake-and-pounce style of play. For much of the game, it will mean dealing with the Devils' Zach Parise, a hard-charging 45-goal scorer who can be a game-breaker.
Parise, Corvo said, is a problem because of "stuff you can't see if you're watching the game."
"He uses his stick a lot, puts his stick in your hands," he said. "He gets his stick in places that are borderline places."
Parise did that Saturday in the Devils' 3-2 win over Carolina that closed the regular season. On a delayed penalty against the Canes, the Devils rushed down the ice and Niclas Havelid fired the puck to the right of the goal.
Canes goalie Michael Leighton came out of net to make a play, only to have the puck take a crazy bounce off the back glass and carom back to the top of the crease. Parise and Corvo were there, with Parise doing some quick stick battling with Corvo and then knocking in the puck for a 2-1 lead, leaving Corvo steaming and talking to the referee.
"That frustrated me," Corvo said. "I'm just not in the mood to let guys get away with stuff like that on me."
Such is the game within the game, and Parise has won many of the battles this season.
"He's got good hands, works real hard," Corvo said. "He's talented, he can skate. He just works hard. He works harder than most guys with his skills."
Corvo and defensive partner Tim Gleason usually face off against the other team's top line, and it's Corvo who often goes head-to-head with an Alex Ovechkin, an Ilya Kovalchuk. Or Parise.
"I think I'm a quicker type defenseman. So if I do get caught out of position I can skate my way back in and recover," Corvo said. "That's probably a big reason I go against guys like that.
"You just have to kind of think like them and think about what they're going to do before they do it."
More often than not, Corvo and Gleason have gotten the job done, Canes coach Paul Maurice said.
"Quietly Joe and Timmy take on the big responsibility every night and really all we do is talk about the guys who score goals after (the games) — that's the National (Hockey) League. But those to guys have played very well," he said.
As for dealing with Parise, who was third in the NHL in goals and had 94 points, Maurice calls it a "huge test."
"Parise is skilled, but what he adds to it is a really high-end work ethic," Maurice said. "He really stays on the puck and he works hard.
"For a defenseman, you're not going to get a shift off with that guy. And Joe is our best-skating defenseman in terms of agility down low."