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Jon Merrill excited to play against favorite childhood team

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Michigan native Jon Merrill will face the team he grew up rooting for when the Detroit Red Wings visit the New Jersey Devils tonight at The Rock.

" It's going to be pretty special, growing up in Michigan, being a Wings fan my whole life," Merrill said Friday. " It's been a goal of mine to play in the National Hockey League and to have an opportunity to play against my favorite team growing up is pretty exciting."

Merrill, 21, was recalled from Albany in early November and has appeared in six games for New Jersey since sustaining an injury in his NHL debut that caused him to miss five games. In his seven games, Merrill has registered one assist.

The meeting tonight is the first of three between the Devils and Red Wings this season and the first time the Devils' defenseman will get a chance to play against the club he credits for getting him into hockey.

Merrill told reporters today that the success of his hometown in the late 1990's got him, "into the game and excited about hockey."

Growing up his favorite player was, no surprise, Nicklas Lidstrom, but he emphasized how hard it is to be as great as the blue liner he spent his time looking up to.

"I think every defenseman tries to do a lot of the things that he did well," Merrill said with a smile. "Try, is the biggest thing."

The Devils second-round draft pick in 2010 spent three seasons playing for the University of Michigan before signing a three-year entry-level contract with New Jersey last March. He finished his career with the Wolverines having scored 11 goals and 36 assists in 82 games.

Before joining the Devils in New Jersey, Merrill played 14 games with Albany (AHL) where he had nine points.

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