DEVILS (17-17-10) at RANGERS (23-17-4)
TV: NBC, TSN2
Last 10: New Jersey 2-6-2, New York 7-2-1
Season series: The teams have split the opening two games of the four-game set. New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves in a 3-2 victory at Prudential Center to even the season series March 19. Rick Nash scored 7:25 into the second period to break a 2-2 tie. The clubs will meet once more in the regular season, April 27 at Madison Square Garden.
Big story: Fans can anticipate a Stanley Cup Playoffs-type atmosphere when these Hudson River rivals square off. A loss of any kind to the Rangers will eliminate New Jersey from postseason contention, while winning in regulation is nearly as important. If the Devils need overtime or a shootout to get two points, the one point earned by the Rangers will make a playoff berth for New Jersey even less likely. Each team enters having won its past two games.
"This is a must win [on Sunday]," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "That will be a man's game. They've got an opportunity to close us out, and I'm sure they're going to relish that, and we'll have to get off the bus and be ready to compete."
Devils: The return of defenseman Anton Volchenkov, who has finished serving his four-game suspension for an elbowing incident April 10, could provide a boost, but DeBoer hasn't come out and stated that the hard-hitting Russian would be reinserted into the lineup. The Devils have put together a two-game winning streak for the first time since March 21-23 and the team has allowed two goals in those two matches. After spotting the Panthers a 2-0 lead in the opening eight minutes Saturday, New Jersey scored six unanswered, including a pair by Patrik Elias, to secure the victory.
Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the lineup against the Panthers after missing the previous 11 games with a right shoulder injury and, despite not registering a point, earned a team-high 22:43 of ice time on a line with center Adam Henrique and left wing Dainius Zubrus.
Rangers: Brad Richards notched the first hat trick of his career on four shots and won 64 percent of his faceoffs (9-of-14) to help lead New York to an 8-4 triumph against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. Nash had a goal and an assist and has produced seven goals and 12 points in 10 games during April. Additionally, Ryane Clowe, who had a goal and one assist, has three goals and seven points in nine games since being acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline. The eight goals scored on Buffalo were a season high and the most by the Rangers since Nov. 14, 2010 -- an 8-2 decision against the Edmonton Oilers at MSG.
Who's hot: Rangers forward Derek Stepan has five goals and 12 points in the past nine games.
Injury report: Rangers forward Brian Boyle (lower body) is doubtful, and forward Derek Dorsett (collarbone) and defenseman Marc Staal (right eye) are out. … Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador (wrist) is doubtful.
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