On Monday night, the rivalry game between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers will mark the regular season finale at Prudential Center.
When the puck drops for the third installment this season of the Battle of the Hudson, the Devils will be in front of their home crowd for the final time this season.
"We have to be able to show our best in our last home game tonight," Damon Severson said. "We haven't had the season we wanted, but tonight we have a rival and hopefully we can send the fans off with a home win.'
And while neither team will be headed to the post-season, ending the home schedule with a rivalry matchup is the best way to end the year.
"Anytime you play a rival, it's bragging rights," Severson continued. "You get the fans all summer going back and forth at each other. You just want those bragging rights the last game of the year, we're at home so we want to play a good game before we send everyone off."
The game also marks an opportunity for rookie Nathan Bastian get in some playing time before the end of the season. Bastian has been out the last several weeks with an upper-body injury, the longest stretch Bastian has been away from the game in his career.
For the 21-year-old, the opportunity is a big one even with just three games left on the schedule. Bastian will enter the summer schedule on a healthy note.
"This means a lot, to be given another chance in this league especially," Bastian said. "I was obviously so excited to be here when I got called up, but then got hurt the way I did was pretty unfortunate. But to go into the summer knowing I'm feeling fine is important. I was feeling really good about my game, hopefully, I can just pick up where I left off."
To pick up where a player left off before injury isn't always an easy task. Particularly young players who are just making their way in the NHL. This will be a new experience, according to head coach John Hynes. The goal is to see how Bastian will be able to return straight into the NHL pace of a game. With just four games of NHL experience under his belt before he was injured, Hynes warns of the difference it takes for a player to return at this level and jump right into the lineup.
"This is a great experience for him," Hynes said. "He's been out injured and now he's going to step right into an NHL game. That's an experience for a young guy, where sometimes you see it as a bit of a wake-up call and how hard they have to push themselves. When you look at the veteran players, when they come back they say 'yeah, I'm ready to play, I'm good' but most of the time they have the experience of coming off injury and into the NHL game. They have the experience of knowing about the pace of play."
"It's been a little bit longer than we anticipated him being [out]," Hynes added in regard to Bastian. "He's ready to go, he's ready to play. I think it's good that he can get back into an NHL game and see where he fits it."
Bastian enters the lineup on the fourth line with Stefan Noesen and Kevin Rooney. He takes a forward spot in place of Devils' leading scorer Kyle Palmieri who will sit the game out due to a lower-body injury. Palmieri did not participate in morning skate.
Projected Devils Lineup