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Desperate Devils turn to Brodeur vs. Rangers

by Mike G. Morreale

RANGERS (38-29-4) at DEVILS (30-27-13)


Last 10: New York 5-4-1; New Jersey 5-5-0

Season series: This is the fifth and final regular-season game between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. The Devils have won three of the previous four games. The Rangers won the most recent one, on Jan. 26 at Yankee Stadium in the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, by scoring six unanswered goals in a 7-3 victory before 50,105 fans. The Devils lead the all-time series against the Rangers 85-78-27, including a 54-34-7 record in their previous 95 home games.

Big story: This has all the makings of another thrill ride on ice between Hudson River rivals who are on opposite sides of the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs: The Rangers are third in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points and trail the second place Philadelphia Flyers by one point with 11 regular-season games remaining. The Devils, who play eight of their remaining 12 regular-season games at home, trail the Columbus Blue Jackets by five points for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and will need a late-season surge to avoid a second straight non-playoff season.

"This is a critical game," Devils coach Peter DeBoer told the Devils website. "I'm glad we're playing the Rangers. There's no motivation needed when you play them. Not that we need any right now with the situation we're in, but I think it's the right opponent for us at the right time and we have to rise to the occasion."

Team Scope:

Rangers: New York has won 20 of its past 27 road games, including a 3-1 victory against the Blue Jackets on Friday at Nationwide Arena. The Rangers received three unanswered goals from Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard and Carl Hagelin to rally from a 1-0 deficit in the third period. Brassard, who played his first five NHL seasons with the Blue Jackets, gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 11:31. Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves as the Rangers moved two points ahead of the Blue Jackets and into third place in the Metropolitan Division.

The game also marked the return of former Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash to Columbus for the first time since his trade to New York in July 2012. He didn't have a point but did get two hands in the face of Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to set off a scuffle in the second before later engaging in a fight with Matt Calvert 12 seconds into the third period.

"It was a playoff atmosphere and a fun game to be a part of," Nash said. "I'm definitely glad it's over though. I didn't expect to have a fight myself but the two points were huge. There were boos right from when I got the puck but I still love the Columbus fans. They are passionate and they love their hockey and I wouldn't expect anything else. They gave me my standing ovation during the video and that means a lot and I'm thankful for that. They love their Blue Jackets."

Devils: New Jersey, which has scored three or more goals in seven of its past 11 games, improved to 9-2-2 in the past 13 at Prudential Center on Thursday with an emotional 4-3 victory against the Minnesota Wild and former team captain Zach Parise. Martin Brodeur is the scheduled starter; he is 49-31-15-5 with nine shutouts in 100 regular-season games against the Rangers.

"This one's an important one, I guess, with the way the standings are shaping up to be," Brodeur said. "For us it's the same story, must-win games from here on out."

The Devils will have fourth-line left wing Ryan Carter back in the lineup. Carter has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury. New Jersey is playing the third of a five-game homestand that concludes against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday and Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday.

Who's hot: Stepan has four goals and 13 points in the past 12 games. … Forward Patrik Elias has four goals and 15 points in the past 11 games for the Devils.

Injury report: Rangers defenseman John Moore sustained an upper-body injury in the first period against the Blue Jackets and is questionable. … Left wing Tim Sestito (upper body) is out for New Jersey.

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