Matchup: The New Jersey Devils take their two game losing streak on the road into Madison Square Garden tonight. The Rangers are coming off a 3-2 win over Buffalo but currently lead the Eastern Conference with 84 points. This is the 4th time the Devils and Rangers will meet this season and the Devils lead the series, 2-1. The two game losing streak that the Devils are currently trying to snap has dropped them from 4th place to 6th place in the East.
Keys to the Game: Shoot the damn puck. Against the Tampa Bay Lightning and their weak defense, the Devils managed 22 shots on net. Unacceptable and when you are going up against Henrik Lundqvist and his big pads. The Rangers are 4th in the NHL when it comes to blocking shots so NJ is going to need to keep firing the puck. The good news for NJ is that the Rangers are 21st in the league at putting their own shots on net, so it’s not outrageous to believe that NJ can outshoot the Rangers, as long as they don’t play like they did yesterday. The Defense will need to do a much better job than they did yesterday. The lightning found the back of the net 4 times on only 16 shots. Adam Larsson will return to the lineup tonight.
The Rangers wouldn’t be where they are if it weren’t for Henrik Lundqvist sitting in between the pipes. His numbers this season have been outstanding and certainly having it looking like he will win the Vezina this season. Lundqvist has a .940 save percentage (.945 at even strength) which is just disgusting if you are a fan of any other team.
As for the Devils, my eyes will be on Zidlicky tonight. Game 1 against the Lightning didn’t get off to the start that I would have liked to seen but what was clear is that he did a better job on the power play than the man he replaced, Kurtis Foster. Zidlicky is more mobile and extremely creative with the puck which should help the power play score more goals.
Playoff Watch: The Devils currently sit in 6th place, one point behind idle Philadelphia and three points behind Pittsburgh. The Devils have the same amount of points as 7th place Ottawa but have 3 games in hand so I’m not worried about losing ground there. Two points would be HUGE tonight
Morning Skate: It’s tough to figure out the lines for tonight’s game as the Devils held an optional skate this morning. Marek Zidlicky, David Clarkson, Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus and Bryce Salvador skipped the optional skate. Cam Janssen, Jacob Josefson, Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter, Adam Henrique, Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Eric Boulton (who cleared waivers at noon) were on the ice. Defensemen who skated were Andy Greene, Matt Taormina, Mark Fayne, Adam Larsson, Anton Volchenkov as well as goalies Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg.