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PRE-GAME REPORT: Devils at Rangers

After a big upset win against St. Louis on Friday, the Devils look to continue that trend against the Rangers

by Marc Ciampa / NewJerseyDevils.com

The Devils look to build off a huge win against one of the NHL's best on home ice on Friday as they roll into Madison Square Garden looking to play spoiler on the Rangers season tonight. 

You can watch the game on MSG+ or listen on the Devils Hockey Network. 

Video: DEVILS:60 | Devils at Rangers

Read the game preview below plus lineup updates, videos, our Pre-Game Report and more. 

INSIDE THE DEVILS

Janne Kuokkanen recalled from Binghamton this morning, Devils Social Team wins a big bet Friday night and more news and notes from the past few days. 

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE DEVILS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

NEW YORK, NY - The Devils look to build off Friday's big win against one of the NHL's top teams, ending the eight-game winning streak of the St. Louis Blues, by doubling down and giving an L to their biggest rivals in the heat of a playoff race. 

The team expects to not make any changes to the winning lineup with the exception of in goal but there is an injury question mark up front so Janne Kuokkanen was recalled from AHL Binghamton. 

"Right now, the plan is to go with the same lineup. We have one question mark up front and that's why he's up here," said Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine, adding that Kuokkanen was recalled due to his hot hand with three goals and six points since arriving in Binghamton following the trade which sent Sami Vatanen to Carolina. 

"He's had success at the AHL level. He's a skilled player and has decent size. He's a top-six forward and brings a lot to our organization."

With Kuokkannen out as expected, the lineup would be:
 
Wood - Hischier - Palmieri
Hughes - Zajac - Anderson
Bratt - Zacha - Gusev
Rooney - McLeod - Hayden

Mueller - Subban
Mermis - Severson
Claesson - Carrick

Blackwood
Schneider

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Alain Nasreddine

Nasreddine did add that if Kuokkanen does play, he could add some energy to the lineup in a back-to-back situation. 

"Anytime you have that kind of energy it's always a good thing. We're playing good hockey and they're playing good hockey. It's going to be an intense game," he said. "If he was to go in, keep the game simple and play to his strength. For him, we know what he can bring so it's just simplify and do what he does best."

BLACKWOOD STARTS

On Friday morning, Nasreddine confirmed that Mackenzie Blackwood would get the start in this game. Blackwood was in goal last time the Devils played at MSG in January. The Rangers won that one 6-3. 

"We can pinpoint it on Blackie but the whole team didn't have our best. Defensively it was leaky. They play fast hockey. For us, it'll be slow that down and play our style of play."

He said on Friday that he hoped that Blackwood would gain some valuable experience playing a team in the heat of a playoff battle, only two points out of a spot behind the New York Islanders. Both Blackwood and Schneider have been riding high with great performances as of late.  

"Both goalies right now are bringing a lot of confidence to our team."

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Dakota Mermis

VALUABLE LESSONS

Nasreddine really liked the team's effort and response on Friday against a Blues team that's been playing as well as anyone in the NHL and felt like a similar response from the team tonight would be a key to success. 

"We faced a really good St. Louis team last night. Right now, it's all about us. It's a little different with the Rangers because it's a rivalry game but getting two points again today," Nasreddine began. 

"Making playoffs is not going to happen for us but the consistency we've played with lately, playing well game in and game out to try and be spoilers."

Dakota Mermis, who scored his first career NHL goal last night, agreed with his coach's thoughts. 

"Just building off yesterday's effort. That was a good effort against a good team," Mermis said." But you've got to park that and you're playing a team that's playing well and fighting for their lives." 

-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com

PREVIEW

DEVILS (27-28-12) at RANGERS (36-27-4)

TV: 7:00 PM ET; Televised on MSG+, MSG

Head-to-Head:

Tonight's game is the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season. 

The Devils won the first meeting of the season by a score of 5-2 at Prudential Center but lost the last two, 4-0 at home and 6-3 at MSG. 

Travis Zajac leads the way for the Devils with three points in the three games, all assists. Blake Coleman had two goals while Damon Severson and Nikita Gusev each had a goal and an assist. 

For the Rangers, Tony DeAngelo has four goals and six points in three games while Mika Zibanejad has a goal and four points. 

Devils team scope:

The Devils have picked up points in seven of their last eight games. After a successful five-game trip that saw them go 2-1-2, they came back home and put an end to the St. Louis Blues' eight-game win streak. 

Connor Carrick scored his first of the season in that game and Dakota Mirmis netted his first career NHL goal. The Devils have now tied Buffalo in the standings with 66 points and are five points back of Montreal, who have 71. Twenty games ago, the Devils were 10 points behind the Sabres in the standings.  

Rangers team scope:

The Rangers are battling for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. They are two points behind the Islanders for that last spot. In their last game, Mika Zibanejad scored five goals in a thrilling 6-5 overtime win over the Washington Capitals. Prior to that, they had lost three in a row. 

Since Christmas, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad rank second and third in the NHL respectively in scoring. Panarin has 48 points in 31 games (12 goals) and Zibanejad has 26 goals and 45 points in 32 games. Zibanejad is first in the entire NHL in goals, one ahead of Alex Ovechkin, who has 25. 

By the Numbers:

The Rangers have the seventh-best record in the NHL since Christmas at 19-13-0 but the Devils actually have the sixth-best record in the NHL in that time at 16-9-7. During that span, the Rangers have the best power play in the NHL at 30.9%. The Devils have the NHL's third-best penalty kill at 84.5%. If you factor in shorthanded goals (net PK%), the Devils are first at 92.5%. Since Christmas, the Rangers are fifth in the NHL in shots for per game at 32.8 but they're also fifth most in shots against at 33.7. 

This is the Devils 14th set of back-to-back games. In the previous 13, they are 6-6-1 in the second half. The .500 record ties them for 17th in the NHL with Boston. The Rangers are 7-4-0 in the second half of back-to-back games. 

The Devils are outshooting the Rangers, 120-91 in three contests. The club looks to improve their 8-8-2 record (4-7-0 road) against Metropolitan Division rivals this season.

Injury Updates:

Devils - Will Butcher (lower body) is on IR

Rangers - Micheal Haley (bilateral core muscle) is on IR; Igor Shesterkin (non-displaced rib fracture) is out; Chris Kreider (fractured foot) is out

-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com

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