(Sports Network) - With back-to-back wins for the first time this season, the New York Rangers now seek their first home victory of the season in the opener of a three-game residency. The New Jersey Devils can make that easier for them if they elect to sit Ilya Kovalchuk again.
The Devils have added off-the-ice drama to their struggles on the ice and they kick off a six-game road trip this evening with a visit to Madison Square Garden to battle the Rangers.
New Jersey has won just twice in eight games this season and currently occupies last place in the Atlantic Division. The Devils snapped a two-game slide on Thursday with a shutout victory over the Canadiens and were looking to pick up some momentum last night at home versus the Sabres.
However, Kovalchuk, who is tied for the team lead with five points, was a late scratch and New Jersey was routed by Buffalo, 6-1. Rookie head coach John MacLean would not elaborate afterwards as to why his $100 million winger did not play and said he would make a decision sometime on Sunday as to if Kovalchuk will return to the lineup tonight.
"It was my decision, I made it," said MacLean. "He knows. I spoke with him and that's where it's going to stay. Ultimately it falls on my responsibility to have these guys prepared to play."
Zach Parise scored the lone goal for the Devils, who fell to 0-4-1 at home this season. They are 2-1-0 as the road team.
Martin Brodeur started New Jersey's first seven games and had to come on in relief last night of Johan Hedberg, who allowed four goals on 15 shots in his first start with the Devils. Brodeur stopped 12-of-14 shots he faced.
While the Devils are struggling, the Rangers are showing signs of getting hot. They have posted road wins in Toronto and Boston since losing three in a row (0-2-1) and last night recorded a 3-2 triumph over the Bruins.
Artem Anisimov and Alex Frolov scored 27 seconds apart in the first period and Marc Staal added a second-period tally. Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves, including 10 in the final period with his team up just one goal.
"Our third period was great," Lundqvist told the Rangers' website. "The whole game as long as we were 5-on-5 we played really well. It was important going into the third that we stayed disciplined, and we did that. We really played smart. It's a great feeling to get the win here."
The Devils and Rangers have split their six-game series in each of the previous two seasons since New York won seven of eight in 2007-08. New Jersey has lost seven of its last 10 at MSG.