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At the Rink: Rangers at Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils defenseman Adam Larsson will make his season debut Tuesday against the rival New York Rangers at Prudential Center.

Devils coach Peter DeBoer confirmed the decision to give Larsson his first opportunity of the season prior to puck drop. Larsson will replace Eric Gelinas in the lineup.

"I think it really was a tough decision not to play him coming out of training camp," DeBoer said. "But we had some great camps by a lot of young defensemen and then we got off to the start winning three in a row so it's tough to make lineup changes. But some things have changed and he's going to get an opportunity [Tuesday], and he's got to make the most of it."

Larsson, the No. 4 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, had one goal, three points and a minus-1 rating in 26 games last season. He has three goals, 27 points and a minus-4 rating in 128 career NHL games. His last goal, Nov. 16, 2013 in a 4-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, marked his first regular-season goal in nearly two years.

Although Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said defenseman Dan Girardi would be a game-time decision, it would surprise even Vigneault if Girardi didn't suit up against the Devils.

"I've known him for a year and it'll take a lot to keep him out of the lineup," Vigneault said.

Girardi has played in more games (575) than any undrafted defenseman since making his NHL debut on Jan. 27, 2007. He leads the Rangers with 16 blocked shots, ranks second in average ice time per game (22:46) and third in hits (12).

"I feel good, real good, ready to go," Girardi said. "I didn't go back into the game [Sunday] just to be cautious and I took a maintenance day [Monday] but I feel good now."

Girardi required stitches above his right boot and missed the final 19 minutes against the Sharks after blocking a shot by Joe Pavelski 33 seconds into the third. Vigneault said after practice Monday that Girardi's lower right leg still was bleeding. But Girardi went through the entire morning skate Tuesday without any restrictions.

Vigneault has been pleased with the performance of his defense the past two games in victories against the Carolina Hurricanes (2-1 shootout win Oct. 16) and San Jose.

"We're better in 1-on-1 battles and doing a better job in front of the net and in our decision-making with the puck," Vigneault said. "This group is capable of making the right reads."

The Rangers have earned a point in 19 of their past 28 games (16-9-3) against the Devils, dating to March 30, 2009. New York also has a point in eight of its past 12 games (7-4-1) in New Jersey, dating to March 25, 2010.

The magic number for the Rangers appears to be four, as they have won 66 straight games when scoring at least four goals and are 87-0-1 in their past 88 when hitting that mark.

The Rangers are expected to start goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has appeared in more games (50), and has more wins (30) and more shutouts (eight) against the Devils than any other NHL opponent.

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kreider - Kevin Hayes - Rick Nash

Mats Zuccarello - Derick Brassard - Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak

Tanner Glass - Chris Mueller - Ryan Malone

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Matt Hunwick - Marc Staal

John Moore - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Anthony Duclair, Michael Kostka

Injured: Dan Boyle (fractured hand), Derek Stepan (non-displaced fractured fibula)


Dainius Zubrus - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Mike Cammalleri - Patrik Elias - Martin Havlat

Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Damien Brunner - Stephen Gionta - Jordin Tootoo

Andy Greene - Damon Severson

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Jon Merrill - Adam Larsson

Cory Schneider

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Tuomo Ruutu, Jacob Josefson, Eric Gelinas

Injured: None

Status report: Vigneault likely will keep the same forward lines as he had against the Sharks when the top three centers, Hayes, Brassard and Moore, had productive games. … DeBoer might tweak his forward lines, moving left wing Cammalleri off the top line and alongside Elias and Havlat. Havlat, who missed a 4-2 loss to the Sharks on Saturday with facial lacerations sustained in a 6-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Oct. 16, is expected to return to the lineup. Zubrus would supplant Cammalleri with Zajac and Jagr, and Brunner would replace Ruutu on the fourth line with Gionta and Tootoo. … The expected goalie matchup will feature Lundqvist against Schneider, who would be making his sixth straight start.

Who's hot: Nash has a point in five of the first six games of the season; he has seven goals and eight points during that span. … Cammalleri has a five-game point streak to open the season (five goals, two assists) and leads the Devils with seven points, two power-play goals and 25 shots on goal.


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