New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers: Game 45 Preview

USA TODAY Sports

The Devils will take on Our Hated Rivals for the first of two matchups in eight days today. The Devils, clinging to miniscule playoff hopes, are mostly playing for pride at this point. That, and the opportunity to torpedo the Rangers own playoff hopes.

As the season winds down, the Devils are pretty much playing out the string. Can they bring down the Rags postseason hopes in the meantime?

The Time: 3:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - NBC (US), TSN 2 (Canada); Radio - 1130 AM WBBR

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (17-17-10) vs. the New York Rangers (23-17-4; SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter)

The Ticket Link for TiqIQ: Would you like to make the trip across the river to the World's Most Overhyped Arena for one of this season's last rivalry games (rivalry in the actual sense, not the NBC Sports Network sense)? For last minute tickets for Devils-Rangers, the secondary market is probably your only shot. Head over to our partners at TiqIQ to get your tickets for this afternoon's game: New Jersey Devils tickets.

The Last Devils Game: The Devils took on the Florida Panthers yesterday and the game got off to a rough start with New Jersey falling into an 0-2 hole early in the first period. The way the Devils have been scoring this season, you might think that would be a huge problem, but the team responded in a big way. The Devils got a goal back on the power play before the end of the first to make it a one goal game, then proceeded to absolutely run the Panthers off the ice for the rest of the contest. The Devils rang up four goals in the second and tacked on another in the third to win 6-2 going away. Elias scored two goals to break out of his slump and Clarkson, Zubrus, Gionta, and Carter found back of the net as well, as the Devils offense finally found their scoring touch. After allowing the first five shots of the game, the Devils would go on to out-shoot the Panthers 33-8 the rest of the way. John's recap of the big win that kept the Devils slim playoff hopes alive can be found here.

The Last Rangers Game: In their last game, the Rangers took on the Buffalo Sabres, and the game got out of hand in a hurry. After going scoreless for most of the first period, the Rangers found the back of the net three times in the last minute-and-a-half. An ineffective Ryan Miller got the hook after giving up a fourth goal early in the second. That did not interrupt the onslaught, as the Rangers would beat Jhonas Enroth an additional four times before the night was over. An inept Buffalo defense certainly didn't help either goaltender. The previously struggling Brad Richards netted his first career hat trick and assorted other Rangers added five more goals for an eventual 8-4 victory. A recap of the blowout from Joe Fortunato can be found over at Blueshirt Banter.

The Last Devils-Rangers Game: The last game between the Devils and the Rags took place in a magical time when the Devils were still very much within the playoff picture. The recap from John will look mighty familiar as it is pretty much the same recap he has written what seems like 20 or so times this season. The Devils outshot and outattempted the Rangers in the game, and while Jerry hasn't looked at the chances yet for this game, there's probably a decent shot they outchanced them too. The Devils fell, regardless, 3-2. An exciting 2-2 first period gave way to an at-times sloppy second period which featured only one goal from Rick Nash on a 2-on-1 yielded by a bad line change. The Devils couldn't find an equalizer in the third, so they lost. John's frustration was palpable in the recap, as the game came on the heels of this season's Hedberg Era of Futility. If only we knew that a somehow even more maddening stretch of hockey was still to come.

The Goal: Win. That's pretty much it. The only way the Devils have any shot at all of making the postseason is to win out, so it's basically their only option at this point. With four games remaining, the Devils remain six points in back of the Rangers (five in back of Winnipeg) and a loss in this afternoon's game would officially eliminate them from contention.

Basically, the Devils have to control play the way they have for a couple weeks now and keep up the scoring ability they've shown the last two nights. The Flyers and Panthers are not exactly defensive juggernauts, so finding a way through the Rangers defense and Henrik Lundqvist presents a slightly taller challenge. The fact that Ilya Kovalchuk has returned to the lineup should help the Devils generate pressure on this Rags team.

Defensively, the Devils will be dealing with a Rangers team has found their own scoring touch over the past month. A team that was dead last in scoring prior to the trade deadline is now sitting at 15th in the league. The Rangers are also coming off 14 goals in their last two games, so the Devils D corps will have to try to silence the Rangers suddenly hot scoring.

The Devils have split the first two matchups on the season and I'm sure everyone here is hoping they make it three out of four by the end of this week. It starts today at MSG. Sound off with your thoughts on tonight's game below. Thanks for reading, let's go Devils.

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