NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, March 22nd (All times Eastern)
New York Rangers (38-29-4) at New Jersey Devils (30-27-13), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New Jersey Devils will try to make up some ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race on Saturday when they host the rival New York Rangers at Prudential Center.
New Jersey enters this game five points behind Columbus for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and seven points in back of the Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The top three teams in each division earn automatic bids to the postseason.
Saturday's contest marks the fifth and final regular-season meeting between the Devils and Rangers. New Jersey won the first three encounters before the Blueshirts posted a 7-3 rout on Jan. 26 in an outdoor game at Yankee Stadium. The Devils led that game in the Bronx by a 3-1 score before New York scored six unanswered goals.
The Devils were the designated home team in the outdoor battle but the Rangers have not fared well in Newark of late, losing four of the past five games staged at the Prudential Center. New York has claimed five of nine overall in the series.
New Jersey had lost three straight in regulation before coming through with an overtime win Thursday against visiting Minnesota. It was the second test of a crucial five-game homestand for the Devils, who improved to 17-9-7 as the host this season.
Andy Greene's goal two minutes into overtime lifted the Devils to the much- needed victory over the Wild and spoiled Zach Parise's return to the Prudential Center in the process.
Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique assisted on Greene's game-winner -- the third helper of the night for both -- while Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder and Mark Fayne all scored to support a 20-save effort from Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.
Parise, who captained the Devils to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals and spent his first seven NHL seasons with New Jersey, potted one of three Minnesota goals in the third period as the Wild overcame a 2-0 deficit to notch a point.
The Devils will go with Martin Brodeur in net on Saturday. Brodeur surrendered six goals in two periods against the Rangers in the rout at Yankee Stadium, but seems confident he can help Jersey put that game in the past when the clubs reconvene indoors.
"When we play in a regular environment, we do well," Brodeur said on Friday. "We're like indoor cats."
The Rangers have won two straight and three of their last four games and are coming off an important win Friday night in Columbus. New York scored three times in the third period of the win over the Blue Jackets, who saw former Columbus star Rick Nash return to Nationwide Arena for the first time.
There was much hype surrounding Nash's first game as a visitor at Nationwide Arena, but the contest also had playoff implications.
With the win, the Rangers moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points ahead of Columbus and one behind second-place Philadelphia. The Blue Jackets, however, have played one fewer game and the Flyers, who host St. Louis on Saturday, hold two games in hand over the Rangers. Columbus is idle on Saturday before visiting the New York Islanders on Sunday.
Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves for New York, which will try to complete a perfect three-game road trip on Saturday. The Blueshirts are 22-13-0 as the guest this season compared to a 16-16-4 mark at Madison Square Garden.
Already showered with boos, Nash, who was selected first overall by Columbus in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and dealt to the Rangers in July 2012, stoked the fans' ire even more late in the second period.
The former face of the Blue Jackets drove hard to the crease and the puck went into the net after a collision with Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky at 17:06. The referee immediately waved off the goal, ruling Nash made incidental contact with the Columbus goalie.
Nash then got to his feet and incited a melee by punching Bobrovsky.
Seeking retribution for him going after Bobrovsky, Matt Calvert engaged in fisticuffs with Nash at the start of the third period.
"I wouldn't have expected to push a goalie to start a fight and have a fight myself. I didn't expect that," Nash said when asked about how he thought the game might unfold.
After this evening's battle in the Garden State, the Rangers will return home for two straight at MSG. The homestand begins Tuesday against Phoenix before the Flyers visit Manhattan for a Metro Division showdown on Thursday.
03/22 10:48:30 ET