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Devils-Rangers Preview @NHL
Devils-Rangers Preview

GAME: New Jersey Devils (6-6-1) at New York Rangers (7-4-3).

TIME: Saturday, 1 p.m. EST.

The New Jersey Devils are no longer dominating the rival New York Rangers.

The teams complete their home-and-home series in a matinee game at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers entered this season with only seven wins in 51 regular-season games against the Devils since winning the 1994 Stanley Cup. With an assortment of unproven young players and veteran journeymen, plus an unsettled goaltender situation revolving around the team's lone proven talent in Jaromir Jagr, a last-place finish seemed all but certain for New York.

But almost one-quarter into the season, the Rangers lead the Atlantic Division while the Devils battle to overcome the transition to a faster NHL and an injury to veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur.

New York improved to 2-0-1 against the Devils with a 4-2 victory Thursday as Jagr and Michael Nylander each scored two goals.

"Now it's our turn to step it up," Devils forward Scott Gomez said. "People have to realize it's not the same Rangers we've known. Everyone put these guys down, saying they would only win 10 games. Right now, they're showing everyone."

Brodeur, who has missed the last four games with a sprained knee, is close to returning to the lineup, but Scott Clemmensen is eager to atone for Thursday's loss.

"I'd like to get another shot at these guys, especially after losing," Clemmensen said. "I'm obviously ready to play anyone but I'd love to play them again."

The Rangers also received a boost from goaltender Kevin Weekes, who turned aside 30 shots in his first start since Oct. 20 - when he allowed three goals on the first three shots in a loss to the New York Islanders.

"Starting from scratch is a little bit challenging," Weekes admitted. "Confidence isn't as much of an issue as getting repetitions and getting into game situations. The only way to feel comfortable in games is to play in them."

One of the reasons for the Rangers' success has been an improvement in killing penalties. They've allowed only four power-play goals in 55 chances at home, and are fourth overall in the NHL at 87.7 percent. In 2003-04, the Rangers were second-to-last in the league at 79.3 percent.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 4): Devils - 13 points, 3rd place, 4 PB, Atlantic Division. Rangers - 17 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Brian Gionta, 7 goals; Alexander Mogilny, 8 assists and 13 points; Dan McGillis, 20 PIM. Rangers - Jagr, 14 goals and 22 points; Martin Straka, 14 assists; Darius Kasparaitis, 28 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 4): Devils - Power play: 18.6 percent (14 for 75), 13th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.4 percent (65 for 77), 7th. Rangers - Power play: 20.2 percent (17 for 84), 9th (tied). Penalty killing: 87.7 percent (86 for 98), 4th.

GOALTENDERS: Devils - Clemmensen (2-1-1, 3.53 GAA); Brodeur (4-5-0, 3.61). Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist (5-2-2, 1 SO, 1.76); Weekes (2-2-1, 3.40).

SEASON SERIES: Rangers, 2-0-1.

LAST MEETING: Thursday; Rangers, 4-2. At East Rutherford, N.J., the Devils took an early lead on a short-handed goal by Jamie Langenbrunner before Nylander and Jagr scored 47 seconds apart later in the first period.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devils - 2-3-0 on the road; Rangers - 4-1-2 at home.

Associated Press

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