When the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers face off tonight at Madison Square Garden, they'll both have plenty on the line.
The Devils enter tonight struggling to find offense. They've scored just one goal in their last three games, winning only once. Martin Brodeur has stopped 93 of 100 shots against over that span. The losses have kept New Jersey stuck in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, and they sit seven points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for fourth in the conference. The chances of New Jersey clinching home ice for the first round of the playoffs are slowly disappearing.
"I don't think that's (home ice) out of reach by any means," Devils captain Zach Parise told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "But they're playing well, Philly's playing well, the Rangers have been playing well all season. So, it will be a challenge, but I don't think it's out of reach by any means."
The Rangers have watched their almost insurmountable conference lead slip away. They led by 10 points just over two weeks ago, but now remain ahead of the Penguins by just one point. They've lost five of their last seven games. Captain Brandon Dubinsky said he's not worried about the sudden rough patch.
"Look, sometimes you don't play your best and you find ways to win games," he told Andrew Gross of The Bergen Record. "That's just the way it is. At the end of the season, it evens itself out."
This is the final meeting between the two rivals this season. New Jersey has won three of the five meetings, including a 4-1 victory over New York March 6. Tied 1-1 after two periods, the Devils exploded for three goals in the final period. Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias led New Jersey with two points. Derek Stepan scored the Rangers' lone goal.
After an uninspiring 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he thinks tonight will give his team a jolt.
"It's a rivalry and there's an intensity to that series because of the history of the two teams and what they've been through," he told Gulitti. "I think there's genuine dislike and that all adds to the environment.
"You want to jump right right back in. They don't give you any choice but to compete and the environment, I think, will be a welcome emotional boost for us to be ready to play."
The game will be on NBC Sports Network. Faceoff is 7:30 p.m.