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Devils hope to damage rival Rangers' chances

by Dave Lozo
DEVILS (37-38-5) at RANGERS (43-33-5)


Last 10 --
New Jersey 4-5-1; New York 6-3-1

Season series -- This is the sixth and final meeting between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Rangers won the first three matchups, but the Devils have taken the last two.

Big story -- For the Rangers, it comes down to this: They can't lose to the Devils in regulation. They must pick up at least a point -- two would be preferable -- and then hope the Hurricanes lose to the Lightning on Saturday night. If the Hurricanes beat the Lightning, the Rangers will miss the playoffs in bitter fashion for the second straight season.

Team scope:

Devils -- After starting the season at the bottom of the League standings, the Devils surged to within six points of a playoff spot in the East. But they eventually ran out of gas and will miss the postseason for the first time since 1996.

That doesn't mean they won't take a bit of satisfaction over possibly keeping the Rangers making the playoffs with a regulation win at Madison Square Garden.

"It's kind of exciting," center Travis Zajac said. "It's a big game no matter what. To be able to beat a team trying to get in the playoffs is always sweeter, too."

The Devils won't be at full strength, however. Zach Parise, Dainius Zubrus, Colin White and Anton Volchenkov won't take part.

Rangers -- At the very least, a point is a must for reaching the postseason after the Sabres and Hurricanes earned wins on Friday. A win would be better, and even that doesn't guarantee a playoff spot if the Hurricanes win later Saturday. The Rangers are in this precarious position after Thursday night's surprising 3-0 loss to the Thrashers at MSG.

Mats Zuccarello was called up Friday from the AHL's Connecticut Whale, likely to take the spot of Matt Gilroy, who played right wing with Ryan Callahan lost for the season.

No matter the lineup, the Rangers are going to have to fend off a fierce rival champing at the bit to play spoiler.

"They are going to do everything they can to spoil it," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "They are going to do everything they can to not see us in the playoffs. It is going to be an exciting game, big game again like last year. Obviously we want to be in a better position going into Game 82, but we don't have a choice."

Who's hot --
Devils forward Patrik Elias has 4 goals and 4 assists in his last five games. … Rangers forward Vinny Prospal has 3 goals and 1 assist in the last four games.

Injury report --
White and Volchenkov are out with lower-body injuries. Parise will skip the final two games for precautionary reasons. Zubrus suffered an upper-body injury against the Leafs on Wednesday and will also sit the final two games. … Forward Ryan Callahan (leg) is done for the rest of the regular season and likely won't return this season unless the Rangers make a deep run in the playoffs.

Stat pack -- A regulation loss would result in the Devils' first losing season since 1991. … The Rangers are 5-1-1 in their last seven games at Madison Square Garden.

Puck drop -- "We felt this coming for the past three weeks. We have been on a pretty good run but Carolina keeps on winning. Buffalo keeps on winning. It doesn't surprise me at all that it takes 82. We will be ready to play Game 82." -- Rangers coach John Tortorella

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