Time: 7:00 pm EST
Location: Madison Square Garden-New York, NY
After a two-game road trip where they went 2-0, the newly-crowned Metropolitan Division Champions New York Rangers appear to be prepping for the playoffs. Two gutsy performances in Winnipeg and Minnesota have given the team and its fans confidence heading into the postseason. A perk that came along with clinching the division is that they will open the first two rounds of the playoffs at home. The Rangers are 23-10-2 at home this season.
Tonight, they play host to the rival New Jersey Devils, a team which has fallen on hard times this season. This will be the third of four games between the two this season. The Rangers have taken the first two games with a combined score of 7-4.
The last time the Rangers played the Devils was last December. In that game, Derek Stepan scored his third career hat-trick (short-handed, power play, and empty-netter) to help the team to their eighth win in a row, at that time.
New York Rangers: 49-21-7 with 105 points, clinched the Metropolitan Division
The team is on a high right now. After going through a 1-3 slump where their play was questioned, the team has rebounded with two much-needed wins over a tough Jets team and the NHL’s hottest team in the Wild. Having returned home for the first of two home games (tonight and Monday), the Rangers will be preparing for their defense of the Eastern Conference title.
The Rangers average the third-most goals per game with 2.99 this season. The power play is showing a little life, as the team has scored once in their past two games, going two or nine with the man-advantage. However, against the Wild, they were given six power plays. Missing out on five opportunities, including a five-on-three opportunity.
New York Rangers
Entering tonight, the Rangers’ power play ranks 21st in the league this season.
A good sign heading into the playoffs is the scoring line of Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello heating up. In their past five games, this line has combined for 12 points (each player having two goals and two assists) and rating a +5. Brassard has four points in his past three games for the Rangers.
The Rangers have an opportunity to extend their lead over the Montreal Candadiens for most points in the Eastern Conference with a win tonight. The Canadiens are not playing tonight. Also, the Rangers could reach 50 wins, for the fourth time in franchise history (tying them with the 1991-1992 team).
New Jersey Devils: 32-33-13 with 77 points, sixth place in the Metropolitan Division
For the Devils, it’s not been a bright season.
They are the 24th best team in the NHL this season. The team has scored 168 goals, averaging 2.15 goals per game. Away from the Prudential Center, the Devils are 13-20-5. They are coming off a 3-2 win over the Canadiens last night.
The Devils do have the fourth-best power play on the road this season, clipping at 22.3% and scoring 21 times on 94 opportunities with the man-advantage. The other three teams with better power plays on the road are the St. Louis Blues, Arizona Coyotes, and Washington Capitals.
Against Metropolitan Division teams, the Devils are 10-11-7 this season.
Henrik Lundqvist is expected to be between the pipes for the Rangers. This will be his third straight start tonight, his fourth in the past five games for the Rangers.
The King is 2-1, yielding 2.66 goals per game. The eight goals he has given up have been at even-strength.
For the season, he is 27-12-3. With a win tonight, he would be two wins shy of 30 for the season, a feat he has accomplished eight times in his career.
On the other side, Cory Schneider could make his 66th start for the Devils. For the season, he 26-28-9 with a save percentage of .927, which ranks fourth in the NHL this season. In addition, his 2.20 GAA ranks him 16th in NHL goalies.
Schneider is 0-1-1 with a 2.93 GAA against the Rangers this season.
D, Kevin Klein
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