New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils, 7:30 PM at Madison Square Garden
Where To Watch: NBC Sports Network
Where To Listen: 1050 ESPN Radio
Live In-Game Chat: 7:15 PM on BlueshirtsUnited.com
For several months the Rangers (44-20-7, 95 pts) have held on to the first place in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. And heading into tonight's contest with the Devils (41-26-5, 87 pts) at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers still reside in first place, but now their lead is down to just one point over the second-place Penguins, making tonight another crucial game for the home team. The Blueshirts have dropped five of their last seven games, including Saturday's 3-1 defeat to the Avalanche in which they pumped 42 shots on goal, but could only score once against Demyon Varlamov. In theose five losses the Rangers have managed just eight goals. In contrast they scored eight goals in their past two victories. And in their last three games overall the Rangers have received only one goal scored by someone other than the Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik-Carl Hagelin line, and that was from Mats Zuccarello on Saturday. Defensively the Rangers have surrendered 20 goals in their last five defeats. So all in all the Blueshirts, who could be without injured forward Artem Anisimov and injured defenseman Steve Eminger again tonight, are looking to turn their collective game around this evening against a Devils team that sits in sixth place in the East, only eight points behind the Rangers. New Jersey has lost two of their last three games---with their only win being a 1-0 shootout victory over Colorado. However the Devils still have won six of their last nine games. Center Travis Zajac has been cleared to practice with the team, though his return to the Devils lineup remains a question mark.
This is the sixth and final meeting between the Rangers and Devils this season. The Rangers are 2-2-1 vs. New Jersey, and have split the first two games played at The Garden. After being shut out by Martin Brodeur 1-0 on February 7th at The Garden, the Rangers answered back with a 2-0 Henrik Lundqvist shutout 20 days later on home ice. Lundqvist has appeared in four of the five games against New Jersey this season and has a microscopic 1.26 goals against average. Carl Hagelin leads the Rangers with six points (2-4-6) vs. the Devils this season.
"First place is a goal we are striving for. It means home ice in the playoffs, which can be so important. But we are not looking at the end result here. We are taking each day and each game as it comes. It is more important how we are playing then where we are at the moment in the standings."-Michael Del Zotto
By The Numbers
By league rule the top three seeds in the post-season go to the three division leaders in each conference. However if the seedings were determined strictly by points then the Atlantic Division would have the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference right now with the Rangers (95), Penguins (94), Flyers (92), and Devils (87) sitting in those spots. The Bruins (85) would be the first non-Atlantic team to show up in the East points race.
Devils sniper Ilya Kovalchuk reached the 30-goal plateau again this season when he scored last week against the Flyers. Kovalchuk now has reached 30 goals in ten consecutive seasons.
Will the Rangers turn it around against the Devils tonight? Share your predictions below.