He's back, man: Turner in overdrive

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Devils right wing Turner Stevenson isn't a pretty player. Ducks coach Mike Babcock might call his style, "greasy." Stevenson doesn't skate or pass or shoot that well. And, after taking a stray stick to the eye, he wasn't looking too good, either.

On Thursday night, however, Stevenson was a thing of beauty to the Devils, who now need just one victory to get their hands on the Stanley Cup after a gritty 6-3 triumph over the Ducks in Game 5.

The meaty 6-foot-3, 220-pound Stevenson, who has been sidelined by a serious groin injury, entered the Stanley Cup final series with a bang and a crash. And, in a series that ultimately will be decided by the one-on-one battles below the faceoff dots, Stevenson was just what the doctor ordered for the Devils.

"When he's out there, he'll go and finish his hits," said Devils coach Pat Burns. "He definitely gives us another dimension to our game."

Stevenson, who hadn't played since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final series against the Senators, was thrilled to be back in the lineup. And, it showed. On just his second shift of the game, with the Devils trailing, 1-0, Stevenson fought off Ducks defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski and fed a perfect cross crease pass to center Pascal Rheaume, who tapped in the tying goal.

"He did all the work on that goal," Burns said. "He's big and strong and he protects the puck well. That's what he did on that play."

The goal jump-started the Devils, who seemed to be standing still in the first two minutes of the game. After the goal, though, it was game on. And Stevenson led the charge by thumping and bumping the Ducks defensemen along the wall for most of the evening.

"He creates a lot of room for other players," said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who came up with a timely save on Ducks D-man Sandis Ozolinsh when the game was still in doubt in the third period. "He's such a big guy, I think he keeps everybody on their toes out there."

And, Brodeur wasn't the only guy on the ice to notice Stevenson's impact on Game 5.

"He does give them another dimension," said Ducks defenseman Keith Carney. "He's good at cycling the puck down low and getting to the net. You need those type of players on your team."

Stevenson wasn't sure he would get back into the lineup until skating on Wednesday afternoon. Before that, he'd skated twice on his own, very lightly. But, after Wednesday's practice, he knew he'd be ready to go.

"It was pain free for the first time in a while," Stevenson said. "I guess we'll see how it feels tomorrow. It's easy to get ready to play one game. But, playing the next one is the hard part. I'll do my treatment and see how I feel tomorrow."

And, what about that eye?

"Eyes . . . I don't care about that," said Stevenson, sporting a mouse just over his left eye. "That stuff is part of the game."

It is part of the game for big, burly forwards like Stevenson, who earn their pay by throwing their bodies into traffic. Stevenson and the rest of the Devils' foot soldiers -- John Madden, Grant Marshall, Rheaume and little Brian Gionta among others -- had a green light in the Ducks' end for most of the evening. They punished the Ducks' defenders and created all kinds of trouble and traffic in front of goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

"They were able to get the puck behind us and really get in and forecheck," said Carney. "We didn't do a good job of holding up their forwards, so we didn't have that extra second to make plays in our end."

And, that was the game plan.

"That's how we want to play," said Stevenson. "We want to work and make the other team play defense. We're a four-line team and we want to wear down the other team."

Now, the big forward with the not-so-pretty game is just one win from the Stanley Cup. And, he knows what it will take to get it.

"It will have to be more of the same," Stevenson said. "It's not going to be easy. I was here in 2001 when we fell short. I don't want that to happen again."

If Stevenson and his teammates play like they did in Game 5, it won't.

E.J. Hradek writes hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at ej.hradek@espnmag.com.