The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils will renew their rivalry when they meet at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Both teams will take the ice while playing relatively hot hockey, although each team is coming off a loss Friday night to a Metropolitan Division foe.
The Devils (16-8-4) had won four of six before letting a 2-0 lead slip away in a 5-3 home loss to the Blue Jackets. It marked the second time in three games the Devils allowed five goals, which matches the number of goals Cory Schneider had allowed in his previous three starts combined.
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“You’re not going to win every one in the division, these are good teams,” Schneider said. “We know what we need to fix. We’ve got to focus on (Saturday) night, another division game, because there’s nothing we can do about this one any more except learn from our mistakes.
“We’re playing a very similar team (Saturday), opportunistic, and if we don’t get good goaltending and don’t take care of the puck, they’re going to make us pay. We just have to have a quick turnaround.”
The Rangers (15-11-2) were winners of six of seven before falling short against the Washington Capitals. New York rallied from down 2-0 to tie the game, but the Capitals scored two late goals to win 4-2. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 36 shots in his first game in a week, as he missed time with the flu.
“Definitely a missed opportunity here,” Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said to the Daily News, “and it stings right now because we worked hard to climb back in it and let them make plays.”
With such a quick turnaround between games, it’s possible backups Ondrej Pavelec of the Rangers and Keith Kinkaid of the Devils will be in the nets Saturday at MSG. Neither coach made his decision public late Friday.
Kinkaid and Pavelec squared off in the first and only meeting between the teams this season. Kinkaid made 29 saves and Pavelec stopped 16 shots as the Devils beat the Rangers 3-2 at MSG on Oct. 14.
The Rangers will be without top center Mika Zibanejad (concussion) for a fifth straight game. The Rangers are 2-2-0 without him but have averaged more than four goals per game during his brief absence.
“If we aren’t making good decisions (against the Devils on Saturday) and certainly don’t come out with the right pace and desperation that we need, we’re going to get burned again,” McDonagh said to Newsday. “So we have to focus on having a good start.”
With a counter-punching ability not unlike what the Blue Jackets possess, the Devils have a chance to immediately put any lessons mined from their loss Friday to work right away Saturday.
“It’s another step in the right direction if we can learn and understand it’s a hard league to win in,” said Devils center Brian Boyle, who will be playing his first game at MSG against his former team since he was diagnosed with cancer before the season. “A division matchup against a motivated team, we have to stick to what makes us successful.”