The New Jersey Devils (25-25-10) meet division rival, the New York Rangers (39-19-2) in only their third meeting this season. New York won the previous two at MSG. New Jersey was shutout in the first game, 5-0, and they were outshot 30-19. Anti Raanta earned the shutout and Cory Schneider made 26 saves (.839 save percentage). The Rangers got goals from Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Brady Skjei, Brandon Pirri, and Jimmy Vesey. Miller’s was a shorthanded goal and both Pirri’s and Vesey’s goals were power play goals. The Devils won 54.2% of faceoffs, had 16 blocked shots, but went 0/5 on the man advantage. The second game, a week later, was much closer but the Rangers won (3-2) in a shootout. The Devils outshot the Rangers 31-27 and got goals from P.A. Parenteau and Miles Wood; New York got goals from Kreider and Derek Stepan. Mats Zuccarello, Michael Cammalleri, and Kevin Hayes (game-winner) all scored in the shootout. The Devils won 54.4% of faceoffs and went 1/4 on the power play. Schneider made 25 saves (.926 save %) and Henrik Lundqvist earned the win by making 29 saves on 31 shots, with a .935 save %.
The lineups will look a little different. Both Schneider and Raanta will be in net for their respective teams. Pavel Zacha has been ruled out with a concussion; he had one around the same time last year so he needs to take his time to come back. He was a healthy scratch for the first game but played in the second. Jacob Josefson was a healthy scratch for both games but he should be in the lineup tonight. Michael Cammalleri, Beau Bennett, and Joseph Blandisi will both be in the lineup; John Moore and Seth Helgeson are both healthy scratches.
New Jersey is coming off of a 2-1 loss to the Senators; Travis Zajac scored the lone goal (a power play goal). It was a pretty good game from the Devils’ perspectives and had a very strong third period but could not score the equalizer. They did outshoot the Sens 30-23 and Schneider made 21 saves (.913 save percentage). Beau Bennett, Seth Helgeson, and John Moore were all healthy scratches. The Rangers defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 in Toronto in a shootout on Thursday; Miller scored the lone goal in regulation and Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad both scored in the shootout. Lundqvist made 32 saves on 33 shots (.970 save %). Buchnevich, Klein, and Puempel were all healthy scratches.
New York is 19.2% successful on the power play (15th) and New Jersey is not too far behind at 17.8% (19th); the Devils power play has been one of the highlights of the last few weeks and it’s helping them out. They look like a coherent unit on the man advantage and five of eight of Zacha’s goals have come on the power play. New York’s penalty kill has a 82% kill rate (13th) and New Jersey’s has taken a hit; it sits 19th in the league with an 80.8% kill rate. The Rangers take about 2.5 more shots/game and allow about 2.5 fewer shots/game.
This is the first time the Devils are meeting the Rangers at home this season but they have only won four of their last 14 games at The Rock (three of those have come within the last three weeks). The Rangers, on the other hand, have won 9 of their last 11 on the road; their only losses have to come to the Isles and the Canadiens. But I’m sure tonight’s game will feel like a home game for the Rangers anyway because it’s nearly impossible to get tickets at MSG.
Either way, it’s a rivalry game. The Devils almost surely will miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season but beating the Rangers should be motivation enough to show up tonight and play a hard-fought game. It’ll be an earlier game than usual and it should be a good one (rivalry games always are); puck drops at 5PM.