The New York Rangers are facing the New Jersey Devils tonight at the Prudential Center at 7:00 ET as the Rangers look to win their second game in as many nights as well as their third straight. After being dominated by the Devils in the early 2000′s, the Rangers have more or less had the Devils’ number in the past few years. The Rangers won their first few against the Devils this season, but New Jersey is playing much better than they were earlier in the year. The Devils defeated the Rangers in the last game between the two teams, with the Rangers experiencing the typical slow start to the game only to fall short in their quest to come back in the third period. It’s been a long time since the Rangers put together a full 60 minutes, and that’s likely what it’s going to take to defeat the Devils tonight. Let’s look at some game notes:
Goalies- Henrik Lundqvist is getting the start once again, and he has a 21-8-5 record against the Devils in his career. However, he let in three relatively soft goals in his last start against them. The Devils, on the other hand, will not have the man Rangers fans are used to booing, Martin Brodeur, in net, as he is on IR with a knee injury. Instead, Johan “Moose” Hedberg will be starting for the Devils. Hedberg has actually been very good against the Rangers in his career, posting a 2.17 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. Still, he is inferior to even a 38 year old Brodeur, so the Rangers need to capitalize.
Ilya Kovalchuk- After an absolutely abysmal start to the season, Kovalchuk’s production in recent games more closely resembles what we’re used to seeing from him. Kovalchuk has 6 goals and 4 assists in his last 8 games, so the Rangers are specifically going to have to watch and contain him tonight. The Rangers can not afford to allow him to have time to prepare his shots. They need to be active around him and make sure he doesn’t find an opening.
Special Teams- One way the Rangers can be counter-productive in stopping Kovalchuk is to give the Devils power play opportunities. Penalties are almost inevitable and that’s something that has to be accepted. However, there’s a significant difference between hooking a forward rushing into the slot for a rebound and taking an unnecessary interference penalty in the offensive zone. The Rangers can not give the Devils free power play chances.
On the other hands, the power play needs to be better than last night, when they went 0-for-4 and threw away a double minor given to them by Ponikarovsky. The Rangers need to plant someone in front of Hedberg and they need to have movement all over the offensive zone. The Devils defense is particularly slow so movement will work to the Rangers advantage. On the other hand, Anton Volchenkov is one of the best shot blocking defensemen in the NHL, so simply standing still and winding up from the point is playing into the Devils’ strength.
Those are the forward lines for tonight. The defense remains the same. There’s no excuse for the Rangers to not have some offensive chances from every single line. Anyone have the over/under on how many times Chico blames goaltender interference for the Rangers scoring tonight?