Devils Face the Rangers Looking to Solidify Playoff Positioning

By Steve Palumbo

Let’s face it, if your the New Jersey Devils and you’ve mustered a lowly two goals in your last three games, including back-to-back shutouts it won’t take much to get you motivated. But, when the team you’re facing is the New York Rangers it is a whole lot easier to come to the rink ready to play.

The Devils have responded when facing the Rangers previously this season, winning three of the five previous meetings. New Jersey is eight points back of the Rangers but have lost two of three after winning four in a row. The streak began with a 4-1 victory over New York two weeks ago, in a game in which the Devils pounded the Rangers physically.

New Jersey isn’t the only one finding it hard to light the lamp. Since the loss to the Devils, the Rangers have lost six of eight only scoring eight goals in their last five losses.

Despite New York holding the top spot in the East, the Devils actually hold a 198-195 goal advantage for the season. What does that prove? Nothing because the Rangers have given up 29 fewer goals than New Jersey over the course of the year.

With both teams struggling offensively, special teams could be the deciding factor in tonight’s game, The Devils own the NHL’s second ranked penalty kill at 89.4%. The unit’s lone blemish came Saturday against Pittsburgh. The Devils surrendered a power-play goal in a 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh after killing off all 28 penalties in their previous 10 games.

Meanwhile the Ranger have collected just three power play goals in their last seven games and went o for 5 in a 3-1 loss the Avalanche on Saturday.

Martin Brodeur will get the start again whic is no surprise. he has been between the pipes for all five meetings with New York earning a 1.59 goals-against average with a shutout.

On the other end, Henrik Lundqvist will attempt to hold the Devils offense at bay. He’s done a pretty good job thus far, going 2-2-0 with a 1.26 GAA and a shutout.

Both teams need a win tonight or they risk losing their current playoff positioning. The Devils hold the sixth seed with 87 points but Ottawa right on their heels at 84 points. The Rangers, who had been running away with the conference, have a slim one point lead over the unstoppable Pittsburgh Penguins for the number one seed in the East.

Obviously the Devils need to win for their confidence’ sake, but I personally want them to hold tight to the six seed. Any movement up or down may put them inline for an unfavorable first-round match-up.

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