New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers - 7:30 pm
Madison Square Garden - New York, New York
TV (Devils Broadcast): MSG+ Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am
Coming off of three straight frustrating defeats, the boys from Brick City look to once again right the ship at the expense of their rival, the New York Rangers. In a season so far marred by injuries and inconsistencies, their first two games against the Blue Shirts have brought smiles to the faces of both the fans and the struggling team. The Devils, for all their offensive woes, have found the back of the net 7 times against New York and have not even stumbled in enemy territory as Danius Zubrus' late goal in their last meeting sent the Rangers' fans home from MSG with their heads hanging.
Some thoughts on tonight's game:
1. Damien Brunner. Brunner made everyone stand up and take notice of his skills early on. He was electric in the pre-season and continued to find his way towards big points early in the season before going colder than the ice they play on. The Swiss winger makes his return to the starting lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past three games. This is an opportunity that the pre-season acquisition has to take advantage of. With Reid Boucher impressing in his appearances so far, it's starting to look like there are more viable options than there are starting positions for them to play. If Brunner is to work himself back into a more permanent position he'll need to step-up tonight.
2. Can the Devils play all 60 minutes? It might sound a bit hackneyed and overused, but there are three periods of 20 minute hockey and so far the New Jersey Devils have had their problems showing up throughout the entirety of the game. The best of New Jersey's victories came after the team battled to stay in range of their opponents and came through with heroic comeback efforts. Traditionally, the Devils don't have the firepower to run away with the game early on. Even their 4-0 win over the Rangers or their recent 5-2 victory over Carolina represent the exception rather than the rule. If the Devils are going to beat the Rangers tonight, their going to have to be relentless because, with the combination of players out with injuries and the fatigue to the rest from last night's game, any mistakes will be that much harder to recover from.
3. Which Henrik Lundqvist will show up? The Rangers' franchise net-minder has been something of an enigma this season. Early struggles left Henrik watching several key games from the bench as he and the fans witnessed the rise of a very capable young goaltender in Cam Talbot. After sitting-out Monday's matchup against the Jets in favor of his backup, questions began to surface about he status of Lundqvist in New York, particularly with his pending free-agency. All of these issues were quickly stamped-out as Henrik and the Rangers came to terms on a new 7-year deal making him the highest paid goaltender in the league and as Lundqvist recovered to shutdown the Sabers in Thursday's 3-1 Rangers' victory. Has the new contract taken the pressure off and allowed the real Henrik to return, or is the decline we all witnessed at the beginning what we can expect from him throughout the year? Tonight will be a good barometer.
Prediction - Devils 3, Rangers 2
The Devils will come out fast and hard trying to get an early advantage, but will have to wary that their legs don't fail them after last night's penalty filled effort against Detroit. The second period will be the most telling, as the long change is traditionally an issue for the Red and Black. However, in spite of these obstacles, the Devils have shown an ability to shut down the Rangers' top-scorers and solve even the best efforts from their goalies. One will lead to the other as the Devils will once again edge their Hudson River rivals by a score of 3-2.
Enjoy the game, everyone.