It has taken an unusually long time for the Devils and Rangers to face off this season, but the wait is almost over.
With 32 games already in the books, the cross-river rivals will finally do battle Tuesday night at Prudential Center.
If it seems like it's been awhile – it has. Last season, the Devils faced the Rangers in their ninth game. Two years ago, they met them twice in their first eight.
"It's pretty rare that we wait so long to play them," said Martin Brodeur
, who will start. "We're over 30 games into the season and we haven't played them. I'm sure everybody's going to be excited – the fans, the players – just to get that atmosphere. We had a great, emotional night last time we played at home because of [Scott Niedermayer's number] retirement. This is another big, emotional night playing against our rivals in our building."
New Jersey (18-13-1) has won a season-high four straight and will look to stay on a roll in a key home game against a divisional foe. The Rangers, meanwhile, snapped a two-game skid with Saturday's 3-2 victory in Phoenix. They lead the Devils by three points in the standings.
"It's a rivalry game so I think everybody gets up for it," said Brodeur. "In the past, it didn't matter what team was rolling. It's a matchup that I think everybody enjoys just because of the atmosphere in the building. We're looking forward to just continuing what we're doing."
Goals are coming in bunches for the Devils, who have lit the lamp 11 times in their last two outings and scored five or more in three of their last four. Despite being held off the scoresheet in Saturday's 5-3 win at Montreal, Zach Parise
has five goals and 11 assists in his last 11 games.
"Someone was asking me the other day if we've beaten them, and I said, 'We haven't played them yet,'" Parise said. "It's surprising we're almost halfway through the season and we haven't played them once."
The teams last squared off on April 9 at Madison Square Garden. Parise, who missed 69 games last season, hasn't faced the Rangers since Oct. 24, 2010.
"It'll be exciting," he said. "Hopefully, it'll be a good atmosphere at the rink."
• Patrik Elias
, who set a new franchise mark Saturday with his 348th goal, missed Monday's practice due to illness. Henrik Tallinder
(back spasms) has missed the last two games and did not skate Monday.