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Devils go for 1st place as they host Rangers

by John Kreiser

RANGERS (32-32-9) at DEVILS (43-25-4)

Last 10 -- New York 3-5-2; New Jersey 5-4-1

Season series -- It's the sixth and final game between the cross-river rivals, with the Devils having won three of the first five -- including a 6-3 victory at the PrudentialCenter on March 10.

Big story -- The Devils are still trying to get everyone rowing in the same direction. They've played in fits and starts over the last few weeks, though the offense finally woke up in Tuesday's 6-3 home win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A victory will move the Devils back into first place in the Atlantic Division.

Despite their ups and downs, the Devils are still in much better shape than the Rangers, who despite their 5-0 demolition of the Islanders on Wednesday are still five points out of a playoff berth as they begin a six-game road trip.

Team Scope:

Rangers -- After coming up small in a 2-1 loss at Boston on Sunday, the Rangers played perhaps their best game of the season against the fading Islanders. The Blueshirts dominated from start to finish, and only the goaltending of Dwayne Roloson kept them from hitting double figures.

"We just have to focus on carrying this game over. We're still alive and we believe," said Marian Gaborik, who had two goals and an assist.

Devils -- The Devils scored a combined total of one goal in back-to-back losses to Toronto and St. Louis before breaking out against Columbus. Travis Zajac had two goals and Ilya Kovalchuk chipped in with a goal and two assists in the middle period. Even better was the revival of the power play, which snapped an 0-for-17 drought by going 3--for-6.

"We had been making progress and we practiced it a lot," said Zach Parise, who scored one of his two goals on the power play. "It was getting better and better and tonight it finally came through."

Who's hot -- Gaborik has six points in his last three games and is one goal away from the second 40-goal season of his career.

Injury report -- Neither team has any significant injuries to report. Ryan Callahan, who left the Rangers' game in Boston on Sunday, was in the lineup against the Isles.

Stat pack -- Martin Brodeur continues to pile up milestones. He got his 40th win of the season on Tuesday, increasing his NHL-record total for 40-win seasons to eight. The NHL's winningest goaltender is just three victories shy of reaching 600. But although Brodeur got the victory in the 6-3 win over the Rangers 15 days ago, he is 2-3-1 with a 2.45 goals-against average in his last six home games against New York.

Puck drop -- Every game is a playoff game for the Rangers, whose wiggle room is all but gone. New York has enjoyed success against Brodeur since Lundqvist arrived in 2005, but the Devils are coming off one of their best offensive efforts of the season and are eager to win the division and earn the No. 2 seed in the East. Expect plenty of passion on both sides.

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