New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils, 8:00 PM at Madison Square Garden
Game 5, Eastern Conference Finals (Series Tied 2-2)
Where To Watch: NBC Sports Network
90-Minute Post-Game Show: MSG Network
Where To Listen: 98.7 FM ESPN New York, and newyorkrangers.com
Live In-Game Chat: 7:45 PM at BlueshirtsUnited.com
Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden the Rangers and Devils will play a vitally important Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Finals series---one that will see the winner move to within one victory of a trip to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. After wins in Games 1 and 3 of this series, the Rangers have twice failed to gain a two-games advantage, losing to the Devils 3-2 in Game 2 and 4-1 in Game 4 Monday night at The Prudential Center. Most troubling for the Rangers, so far, in this series are their slow starts to each game, and heavy reliance on Henrik Lundqvist's brilliance in goal to bail them out. On Monday night not even Lundqvist could save the Rangers as the Devils stormed them from the first drop of the puck, scoring twice in the first period en-route to a 4-1 win. Yet when faced with adversity throughout these playoffs the Rangers have routinely bounced back with a strong, and often a winning, effort the next game, and they are confident that will be the case in Game 5. The return of Brandon Prust---who was suspended by the NHL for Game 4---will provide a boost. And surely a major lift could come in the form of Brandon Dubinsky's return to the lineup should he and team trainers deem him healthy enough to play for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury in Game 7 of the first-round series with Ottawa. No official word has come yet regarding Dubinsky, though he has practiced for several days in a row and is clearly inching closer to a return. Still even with these possible boosts, what the Rangers need most of all is more consistent offensive production, most notably from the forwards. Of the nine goals scored by the Rangers in this series , six have been tallied by forwards, with rookie Chris Kreider having netted half of those. Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards are without a goal in this series; Ryan Callahan has scored one empty-net goal; Derek Stepan and Brian Boyle have yet to score a goal; and Carl Hagelin has gone 15 playoff games without scoring a single goal.
Rangers-Brad Richards: Big Game Brad has lived up to his reputation with a slew of clutch performances throughout the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, so far, with, perhaps, his most memorable being his game-tying goal with 7.6 seconds to play in Game 5 against the Capitals. Now it's another must-win Game 5 and the Rangers will most definitely look to Richards---who has three assists, but no goals, through four games in this series---to lead them. Whether or not he does may determine if the Rangers are capable of holding off the Devils here in the conference finals.
Devils-David Clarkson: Plain and simple Clarkson has tormented the Rangers ever since he donned a Devils jersey five years ago. He has been fairly quiet in this series so far---though he did score the game-winner at The Garden in Game 2---but you just expect him to have a big-time performance in this critical Game 5 on Wednesday. A 30-goal scorer during the regular season, Clarkson has just three post-season goals in 16 games.
"It's a 2-2 conference final. We're happy to be home, and we feel good and are pretty excited. We should see this as a great opportunity to do something great. Of course we wanted to win (Monday) night, but it didn't happen. We just look forward to playing this next game."-Henrik Lundqvist
When Zach Parise slipped a long range shot into the empty net Monday night for the fourth Devils goal it marked the first time in 18 playoff games this spring in which the Rangers surrendered more than three goals. Their 17-game run of consecutive post-season games allowing three goals or fewer tied an NHL record originally set by the Detroit Red Wings in 2008.
Carl Hagelin has not scored a goal since March 15th against the Penguins, a span of 27 games (12 regular season, 15 post-season).
Will the Rangers rebound and move another step closer to the Stanley Cup Finals with a win Wednesday in Game 5? Share your prediction below.