3/21/17 Game Preview: New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils (26-33-12) will try and avoid the season sweep tonight against the divisional rival New York Rangers (45-24-3); New Jersey is 1-2-0 against New York this season. They dropped the first two games at Madison Square Garden; the first was a 5-0 shutout for Antti Raanta, who made 19 saves. Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Brady Skjei (his first), Brandon Pirri, and Jimmy Vesey all scored goals; Miller’s was shorthanded, and both Pirri’s and Vesey’s were power play goals. Cory Schneider made 26 saves on 31 shots against (.839 save percentage).

Their second matchup came a week later, when the Devils fell in a shootout. They did outshoot the Rangers 31-27, and P.A. Parenteau (power play goal) and Miles Wood had regulation goals; Kreider and Derek Stepan scored for New York in regulation and although Michael Cammalleri scored in the shootout, both Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes did as well. Henrik Lundqvist got the win, making 29 saves on 31 shots against (.935 save %); Schneider again started and made 25 saves on 27 shots against (.926 save %).

The Devils also fell in overtime in their third meeting; they were outshot 40-38 but New York jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first. Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri (3) scored regulation goals to take their first lead but Adam Clendening scored with less than five minutes left in regulation to tie things up. Mika Zibanejad scored the overtime winner. Schneider again started in net and made 36 saves on 40 shots against (.900 save %); Raanta made 35 saves on 38 shots against (.921 save %).

Schneider (19-23-10) has made all three starts against the Rangers and will get his fourth. He did start against Columbus on Sunday but Kinkaid made two straight starts against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and replaced Schneider in Arizona. Schneider has a 2.72 GAA and a .910 save percentage (2 shutouts). Lundqvist has been out with an upper body injury so Raanta (15-7-1) will start. He has a 2.30 GAA and a .921 save % with three shutouts.

The Devils did not practice as scheduled yesterday (surprise, surprise) so any lineup notes won’t be made official until Coach Hynes speaks to the media. Michael Cammalleri, Jacob Josefson, and Devante Smith-Pelly did not skate this morning and still won’t return to the lineup. Miles Wood and Nick Lappin did not play on Sunday; they did both skate together (on their own) yesterday and skated this morning so they will likely return to the lineup.

Henrique (three goals and a pair of assists) and Pavel Zacha (four assists) have four-game point streaks. Palmieri, who leads the team in goals with 25, has 10 in his last 13 games and is making a serious run at another 30-goal season, and is two goals away from 100 in his career (and four assists away from 100). Henrique is on the brink of 20.

Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein did practice yesterday but won’t play tonight; Lundqivst practiced as well but will return sometime during New York’s California road trip.

New Jersey fell to the Blue Jackets on Sunday, a really odd 4-1 loss. The Rangers beat the Wild on Saturday, 3-2. The Devils have lost 12 of their last 13 games; their only win came on Thursday against Philadelphia at home, snapping a 10-game losing streak. The Rangers do have the best road record in the NHL, at 26-9-0. They do need eight points to clinch a spot in the postseason although it is almost guaranteed that they will be in the playoffs for the seventh straight season while the Devils are on the outside, looking in.

The Devils have gone 2 for 11 on the man advantage in the season series while the Rangers have gone 2 for 9. The Rangers are 17th in the league on the power play at 18.4%; New Jersey is not too far behind at 18.6% (19th). The Devils have the slightly better penalty kill at 80.7% (15th); New York sits at 80.1% (20th). Overall, New Jersey has been better in the faceoff circle. If they can play the way they have been and keep it close, that’s all that matters to me.

If they Devils win tonight, I probably won’t care about the rest of the season; puck drops at 7PM.

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