Rangers-Devils Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 31, 2012
The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are bitter rivals, but have met just once this season. They'll make up for it by meeting five times over the next six weeks. Fresh off an MVP performance in the All-Star game, Marian Gaborik leads the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers across the Hudson River to face the Devils on Tuesday night. Gaborik scored twice and set up Artem Anisimov's tally in a 4-1 win in Newark on Dec. 20, the first meeting of the season between these Atlantic Division rivals. The Rangers and Devils are about to become much more familiar with each other, meeting five times in the next six weeks including a matchup at Madison Square Garden next Tuesday. "I feel like playing those guys brings out the best in both teams," Devils captain Zach Parise told his team's official website. "It'll be a good test for us. Those are huge points, 10 points that we'd like to get, it's going to be 10 important points for us to get into the playoffs." The Rangers (31-12-4) own the most points in the East, while the Devils (26-19-3) are in a three-way tie with Florida and Toronto for the two final playoff spots. Gaborik is a big reason for New York's success, ranking among the NHL leaders with 25 goals. He netted a hat trick and assisted on another goal to garner MVP honors and lead Team Chara to a 12-9 win over Team Alfredsson in Sunday's All-Star game in Ottawa. One of Gaborik's tallies came against Rangers teammate Henrik Lundqvist. "It's always tough to score on him," Gaborik said of Lundqvist, third in the NHL with a 1.87 goals-against average. "It's not easy. I was fortunate to be lucky against him, but I think he's one of the best if not the best goalie in the league." The Devils, who have totaled three goals during a three-game slide, might agree since Lundqvist is 23-9-5 with a 1.82 GAA against them in the regular season. He made 30 saves in last month's matchup, improving to 4-1-0 with a 1.19 GAA and a shutout in his last five visits to Prudential Center. Coach John Tortorella, though, is wary of rust play from his Rangers, who haven't played since a 3-0 win over Winnipeg last Tuesday. Lundqvist made 22 saves for his fifth shutout of the season, while Ryan Callahan had one goal and one assist. "We know there will be certain types of sloppiness (due to the break), but as soon as we get into the right kind of mindset as far as taking care of details the quicker we will get back to our game," Tortorella told the team's official website. New York has won six of the last eight overall meetings with New Jersey. The Devils return from the All-Star break to continue a season-high six-game homestand, during which they're 1-2-1 so far after falling 2-1 in a shootout to Buffalo last Tuesday. "I think guys are happy to be back," Parise said. "The atmosphere, the feeling is good. I think our biggest thing right now is we have to make sure we're prepared to play, because it's the best team in the East and our rivals. "We have to make sure we're ready to go. We know how good they are." Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't scored and is a minus-3 in his last three games after scoring seven goals with three assists in his previous six contests. The left wing, who leads New Jersey with 19 goals, has five in 10 matchups against the Rangers since joining New Jersey during the 2009-10 season. Kovalchuk came up empty on six shots and was a minus-3 in last month's loss. Martin Brodeur is scheduled to start in net for New Jersey, seeking to improve upon his 1-3-1 record and 2.77 GAA in five home starts this month. He's 1-4-1 in his last six games versus the Rangers.
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