NEW YORK -- With a long offseason awaiting the New Jersey Devils after the season finale Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, coach Peter DeBoer was adamant his team wouldn't be a pushover against the New York Rangers.
As for their rivals from across the Hudson River, New York clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth Thursday and are jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference.
"We came to win the game. You just want to finish the right way," DeBoer said Saturday. "I think we have enough professionalism that I don't see that being an issue. The big thing we've talked about is not letting our play drop because of the situation we're in. We've played some very good hockey the last three weeks."
The Devils come into the game having won four of their past five games, their only loss in that stretch a humbling 4-1 loss at MSG last Sunday that officially knocked them out of playoff contention. DeBoer said he expects a better performance against the Rangers.
"We weren't happy with our game [last week]. We have to be a lot better than that," DeBoer said. "I'm assuming they're going to be very good. It still means something for them. I'm hoping we have a better effort than we had last time here."
With a ticket already punched for the postseason, New York can finish as high as sixth in the East, a spot that would set up a rematch of their second-round series last year against the Washington Capitals.
The New York Islanders completed their regular season Friday night with a 2-1 shootout loss at the Buffalo Sabres and have a one-point lead over the Rangers in the standings. The Ottawa Senators are tied with the Rangers at 54 points, but have two games remaining: Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers and Sunday against the Boston Bruins to make up the game that was postponed in the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15.
"That's why we're playing our best lineup. We're trying to go as high as we can," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
Devils captain Bryce Salvador traveled across the Hudson with the team, but he is not ready to return from a wrist injury. Johan Hedberg will start in net and Martin Brodeur will be a backup at Madison Square Garden for the first time since Dec. 5, 1993. Andrei Loktionov and Eric Gelinas, who made his NHL debut Thursday night against the Penguins, will be scratched and replaced by Alexei Ponikarovsky and Henrik Tallinder.
Arron Asham missed the Rangers' road trip this week to be with his wife, who is expected to give birth soon, but he will be back with the team Saturday. Ryane Clowe will not play after leaving Thursday night's 4-3 overtime win at the Carolina Hurricanes with an undisclosed injury. Kris Newbury will take his place.
Here are the projected lineups:
Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - David Clarkson
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Dainius Zubrus - Jacob Josefson - Steve Sullivan
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Henrik Tallinder - Peter Harrold
Scratched: Andrei Loktionov, Alexander Urbom, Krystofer Barch, Mark Fayne, Eric Gelinas
Injured: Bryce Salvador (wrist)
Taylor Pyatt – Brad Richards – Mats Zuccarello
Carl Hagelin – Derek Stepan – Ryan Callahan
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard – Chris Kreider
Darroll Powe – Kris Newbury – Arron Asham
Dan Girardi – Ryan McDonagh
Michael Del Zotto – Anton Stralman
John Moore – Steve Eminger
Scratched: Roman Hamrlik, Matt Gilroy
Injured: Marc Staal (eye), Derek Dorsett (upper body), Michael Sauer (concussion), Ryane Clowe (lower body), Brian Boyle (lower body)