Both teams have won a game in regulation and the Devils, behind former Ranger Brian Boyle‘s shootout goal, beat the Blueshirts 4-3 just before Christmas at the Prudential Center giving the Devils a 2-1-0 record in the matchup between these cross-Hudson rivals. That was the last game between the clubs and since then the Rangers are 15-24-5 while the Devils have gone 21-19-4.
New Jersey looks to be playoff-bound while the Rangers are playing out the string with just two games remaining after tonight.
Mats Zuccarello and Jesper Fast will not play due to injury. Fast will be shut down for the rest of the season having suffered a groin injury. While the jury is still out on the severity of the issue that has forced Zuccarello out of the lineup, it would not be a surprise if he were also finished for the year.
Other than Henrik Lundqvist, there is no Ranger who wears his heart on his sleeve any more prominently than the guy they call ‘Zucc’. His game is wonderfully creative, played in a fearless manner that defies his less than towering physique. This disappointing season has been a frustrating one for Zuccarello. Taking no solace in leading the team in scoring, not making the playoffs has been a bitter pill to swallow for the uber-competitive Norwegian. When you toss into the mix the month-long trade speculation swirling around Zucc, he has done a great job of remaining a positive influence in a situation that could have been a lot worse than it has turned out to be.
Fast missed all of training camp and the first five games of the regular season due to abdominal surgery during the offseason. As this tumultuous season played out, there was not a more valuable forward over the course of the season than Fast. He slotted anywhere in the lineup and could be trusted in all situations with his honest, committed game. Known and respected more for his smart defensive work, Fast played on the Rangers top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider as the season wound down and he put up 12 points in his last 12 games. On the roster of every winning team, there are those guys who fly under the radar while letting their actions speak louder than their words. There is no doubt that Jesper Fast’s game speaks volumes and he will be a very important piece as the makeover moves forward on Broadway.
Steve Valiquette and Bill Pidto chat about what it's like as a player to miss the playoffs, what the Rangers players and management may do in the summer and the most impressive Blueshirt rookie this season.
1. Manage the Gap
The Devils offensive game is a high-end speed one, led by MVP candidate Taylor Hall. If New Jersey is allowed room to generate speed from the top of the circles in their end through the top of the circles in the Ranger end, it will be a long night at the Rock for the Blueshirts.
2. Embrace the Emotion
The building should be electric as the Devils look to inch closer to a postseason birth, especially with the Rangers in town. This will be a new situation for many on the roster but a good taste of spirited rivalry hockey will be invaluable for the younger Rangers.
3. Don’t Quit
The Devils will hound the puck. In all three zones, the Blueshirts must be aware that a play is never over until it is over. Don’t quit in any situation.