Gameday: Rangers at Devils (2/5/13)

Rangers-Devils

The Devils and Rangers face off for the first time since last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

Who: New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
When: 7:00 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Media: TV – MSG+2 (Channel listings); RadioBloomberg (1130AM)
Twitter: @cgriffin415 | @SNYDevils

Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)

  • Ryan Carter’s three-game scoring streak (1g-3a-4pts) is a new career high.
  • Steve Bernier’s two-goal game Sunday in Long Island was the 11th of his career and first since February 2010, 2011 vs. Buffalo.
  • The line of Carter-Stephen Gionta-Bernier has 4g-6a-10pts over the past three games. The trio had 4g-5a-9pts in the Eastern Conference Finals vs. New York last season.
  • Andy Greene has points in back-to-back games (1g-2a).
  • Martin Brodeur is expected to get the start in goal tonight. He is just three games shy of becoming the 93rd player to reach 1,200 in his NHL career.
  • New Jersey went 7/7 on the penalty kill Sunday and 10/10 over the past two games.

Expected Lineups

Forwards                                                              Defense                                                      Goalie
Zubrus-Zajac-Kovalchuk                                     Salvador-Fayne                                              Brodeur
Elias-Henrique-Clarkson                                    Greene-Larsson
Carter-Gionta-Bernier                                        Volchenkov-Zidlicky
Barch-Josefson-Butler

Inactives: Harrold, Matteau, Tallinder

Apologies for the slow day on the site, but I finally got hit with that bug everyone’s faced down this winter. Things will pick up tomorrow and Thursday as I hopefully shake this thing sooner rather than later. Regardless, here’s some important points for tonight…

Rivalry night: Yeah, the Isles play in New York and it’s always fun to beat them, but the real treat is those boys in red, white and blue across the Hudson. There’s not many rivalries in hockey better than Devils-Rangers, especially when both teams are good. Whether it was the classic  playoff series in 1994 and 2012 or the Devils winning three Cups while the Rangers spent wildly to miss the playoffs or Sean Avery’s stick-waving love affair with Marty Brodeur — the rivalry between these two teams is always fun, something the players and coaches openly admit. Will we see a repeat of the line brawls from last season? Or DeBoer and Torts shouting at each other across the bench? Who knows? But you can bet it’ll be aggressive, emotional and hard-nosed hockey that will likely feature stellar goaltending. I don’t know about you, but Devils-Rangers games are always the first ones I circle on my hockey calendar.

Disappearing Russian: Where art thou, Kovy? Seriously. Where the hell have you gone? Ever since that overtime game winner against the Caps you’ve been non-existent, which is a major problem considering the Devils rely on you for 86 percent of their offense. DeBoer tried to awaken the beast by slotting Henrique onto the top line in place of Zajac, but he decided to go back to Zajac tonight — a move I’m in favor of. I appreciate the notion of trying something different to get Kovy going, the chemistry we saw between he and Zajac in the first few games was tantalizing enough to deserve more of an extended look. I’m not overly concerned in the long term — eventually Kovy will get hot and more than make up for these few missing games — but there’s no better time for him to break out of his slump than against the Rangers.

Kill the power: Avoiding all Super Bowl-related jokes, the Rangers have almost a brain-dead power play at this point while the Devils are coming off 10 straight successful penalty kills over the last two games. This is a major advantage for the Devils, who know they can play with an edge while still being confident they won’t lose ground on special teams. I’m not saying the Devils weren’t playing with fire in racking up over 20 minutes of penalty time Sunday, but the Rangers have had trouble for years on the man advantage and Rick Nash’s addition hasn’t helped much.

Quirky: Thanks to the lockout, the Devils only play the Rangers four times this year and don’t play in MSG until twice in the final week of the regular season. That makes these early games in New Jersey all the more important. Last season the two teams split the season series and their head-to-head record could very well play a role when it comes to playoff seeding. The Devils already have an edge over fellow Atlantic members in the Islanders and the Flyers and any wins they can pick up against the Rangers would be extra insurance in what will surely be a tight divisional race.