NEW YORK — Forward Ross Colton’s “disdain” for the Rangers started when he was growing up in New Jersey rooting for the Devils.
Colton remembers the 30-minute NJ Transit train rides with his older brother, Robert, to Newark to watch Devils home games at the Prudential Center, including New Jersey’s Eastern Conference final over the Rangers in 2012.
Now a decade later, Colton — whose five postseason goals are tied with Corey Perry for most on the team — plays the Rangers in a conference final.
“I loved the Devils, so I always had some disdain for the Rangers,” Colton said ahead of Game 1 at Madison Square Garden. “I came to so many playoff games at (the Prudential Center). It feels like yesterday when me and my brother were taking the train in to watch the Devils and Rangers (in 2012). It was pretty special. It’s kind of just crazy to sit here today to go out at MSG and play, so I’m definitely excited.”
Colton, who was a huge fan of then-Devils stars Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, said he wasn’t at the Devils’ series-clinching Game 6 win over the Rangers, ended by an Adam Henrique goal 63 seconds into overtime, but he was following along from afar.
“I think I was at a Sweet 16 (birthday party) or something,” Colton said. “And we didn’t care what was going on. We were all on our phones and going nuts when it went into overtime and then when Henrique scored. It was pretty crazy.”
Colton, the 25th player born in New Jersey to play in the NHL, scored 22 goals in his first full NHL season this year. And he has scored huge goals in the postseason, including the Lightning’s Stanley Cup-clincher last season in Game 5 against the Canadiens and the winning goal in the final seconds of Game 2 against the Panthers this year that fueled the Lightning to a second-round sweep.
“I think just being a little bit more experienced (helps),” Colton said. “I didn’t play too many games last year and kind of had a limited role, not too many minutes. So kind of this year stepping into some more minutes and playing in different situations, (playing on) the power play and whatnot, it’s a little different but the same mindset, just coming to work every day, trying to get better and learn from the older guys who have been through this, kind of feed off them and just do what I can do to help the team win.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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