It’s been nearly two months since the New York Rangers’ most recent game against the New Jersey Devils, a blowout at Yankee Stadium.
The Rangers could use another win over their rivals Saturday night to help their push for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Devils, meanwhile, need a victory to boost their chances of just getting into the postseason.
New York (38-29-4) used six unanswered goals in the Bronx for a 7-3 win Jan. 26, which snapped a three-game skid to New Jersey and started a 6-1-0 stretch that lasted through the end of February. The Rangers went 3-5-1 to start this month before earning back-to-back wins to start a three-game trip.
After beating Ottawa 8-4 on Tuesday, New York used a strong third period for a 3-1 victory over Columbus on Friday. Derek Stepan scored the first of his team’s three goals in that frame and helped the Rangers break a tie for third place in the Metropolitan Division with the Blue Jackets.
"We showed a lot of mental toughness in this game," coach Alain Vigneault said. "Both teams knew what was at stake. It was a playoff game. There was a lot of chippiness out there. Everybody was fighting for every inch, and we found a way to win the game."
The Rangers are one point behind second-place Philadelphia in the Metropolitan entering Saturday’s play. The Flyers host Western Conference-leading St. Louis earlier in the day.
New York will try to aid its cause in that race by sending the Devils to a fourth loss in five games. New Jersey (30-27-13) ended a string of three consecutive defeats with Thursday’s 4-3 overtime win against visiting Minnesota but only after blowing a 3-1 lead in the third period.
The Devils got a much-needed second point when defenseman Andy Greene scored his eighth goal.
New Jersey is currently 11th in the East and five points behind Columbus for the final wild card spot.
"As long as we get ourselves a chance to get two points in a game, who cares how it happens? Two points is two points," Greene said.
The Devils will give goaltender Martin Brodeur another chance against the Rangers on Saturday. The NHL’s all-time wins and shutouts leader tied a career high by giving up six goals in the loss at Yankee Stadium before getting pulled after two periods.
He’s allowed a combined seven goals in his last two games after going 4-0-0 with a 2.25 goals-against average to open this month. Cory Schneider started in Thursday’s victory.
The Rangers are expected to start Henrik Lundqvist again in the second of their back-to-back games. He’s 5-2-0 with a 1.87 GAA in his last seven games but is 1-2-1 with a 3.51 GAA in the four matchups with New Jersey this season.
Devils scoring leader and former Rangers forward Jaromir Jagr has assisted on seven of his team’s 14 goals in those games. Five teammates have scored two goals apiece in this season’s series.
Lundqvist was 28-12-5 with a 1.77 GAA and seven shutouts in his first 45 regular-season matchups against the Devils.
New York forward Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the win at Yankee Stadium and has a team-best five points in the season series (three goals, two assists). He has four assists in the last two overall games.