A pair of division rivals who are both playing much better overall as of late---especially on the defensive end---meet Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden where the Rangers (9-8-0, 18 pts) host the New Jersey Devils (5-7-5, 15 pts). The Rangers enter play seeking a season-best fourth consecutive victory, and have won six of their last seven games following Sunday's 4-3 home-ice win over the Florida Panthers, while the Devils have won two of their last three---allowing just one regulation goal in that span---and are 4-2-1 in their last seven games.
Sunday's contest marked the first time in ten games that the Rangers failed to hold the opposition to two goals or fewer, the longest such streak in franchise history since the 1970-71 season. Prior to Sunday the last time the Rangers did not hold an opponent to two goals or less was on October 19th when they were beaten by these very same Devils, 4-0, at the Prudential Center. At that point the Rangers record had dropped to 2-5-0, and they would follow with a 2-1 loss in Philadelphia before starting to turn things around with a dramatic 3-2 overtime win in Detroit on October 26th. Since that victory the Rangers are 7-2-0 in their last nine games, outscoring the opposition 27-15.
Henrik Lundqvist pointed out following practice on Monday that head coach Alain Vigneault showed much-needed patience and provided the appropriate guidance during the Rangers slow start to the season; and Lundqvist added that he believes the team is now executing the coach's new style of play to a tee, at both ends of the rink. The Rangers have scored 13 goals during their current three-game winning streak, and have notched 19 goals in their previous five games. The defensive numbers are equally as impressive, and Lundqvist himself has surrendered only nine goals in his last six starts since returning from injury.
Vigneault noted on Monday that he has been very impressed recently with how his club has responded when the opposition scores a goal. Instead of letting one goal against turn into multiples, the Rangers have been able to shut the door and answer back themselves, something Derek Dorsett did with his clutch second period goal on Sunday, pulling the Blueshirts even 2-2 heading into the third period. The difference between being tied at that point---while not playing their best hockey in recent memory---and chasing the Panthers at the start of the third period was extremely big, according to Lundqvist.
Carl Hagelin enters play riding a five-game point-scoring streak for the Rangers, posting 4-3-7 numbers in that span. Since returning from off season shoulder surgery, Hagelin has recorded at least one point in six of the seven games in which he has played. Ryan McDonagh comes in with a three-game points streak, and the Rangers are now a perfect 9-0-0 in games when The Mac Truck records a point. Mats Zuccarello, who scored the game-winning goal on Sunday, also has a three-game point streak. Zuccarello has at least one point in seven of the nine games he has played since he was a healthy scratch in Philadelphia.
Injured center Dominic Moore will miss his seventh straight game due to a strained oblique, but Vigneault said he should be able to return Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens. Rick Nash and Taylor Pyatt also remain sidelined due to head injuries. The Devils will be playing without team captain Bryce Salvador, top-line winger Patrick Elias, rookie defenseman Jon Merrill, and former Rangers forward Ryane Clowe, who are all injured.
Who the Devils will have playing on Tuesday is future Hall-of-Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur. The 41 year-old Brodeur sat and watched Cory Schneider blank the Blueshirts back on the 19th of October, but will get the call at The Garden on Tuesday. He is coming in off back-to-back shutouts in his previous two starts---a 22-save blanking of the Flyers last Thursday and a 15-save shutout in the Devils most recent game, a 5-0 win over Nashville on Sunday. Brodeur now has an NHL record 123 regular season shutouts in his career, to go along with an NHL-best 673 victories. This season he is 4-3-2 with a 2.09 goals against average.
Ex-Ranger Jaromir Jagr--another seemingly-ageless 41 year old---leads the Devils with 13 points in 17 games, having notched his fifth goal and eighth assist in the win over Nashville. Jagr surpassed 1,700 career points with his two-point effort on Sunday. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky is second on the team with 11 points so far this season.
While the Rangers have won four of six home games to date this season, the Devils are just 2-6-3 on the road, including their 3-0 win in Philly last week.