Martin Brodeur is back in net for the New Jersey Devils, and antagonist Sean Avery is again in a New York Rangers uniform.
With both teams desperate to end losing streak, Monday night's game at Madison Square Garden could have a similar intensity to last season's playoff series between the Atlantic Division rivals.
While they have wrapped up a postseason berth, the Devils (47-24-4) are looking to avoid a season-high fifth straight loss and trying to maintain their six-point lead in the division over Philadelphia. The Rangers (38-28-9) are looking to break a two-game slump and keep pace in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race, where they are seventh - two points ahead of ninth-place Florida.
That could breed a contentious battle like their first-round meeting last postseason. Avery played irritant to Brodeur and the favored Devils, helping the Rangers take the series in five games.
In Game 3 in New York, Avery waved his arms and stick in front of Brodeur to screen him during a Rangers power play, prompting the NHL to institute a rule outlawing the practice. New Jersey won that game in overtime, but ended its season with consecutive defeats.
Avery signed a four-year, $15.5 million deal with Dallas in the offseason but was placed on waivers after a six-game suspension for making inappropriate comments before the Stars' game at Calgary on Dec. 2. The Rangers claimed the forward off re-entry waivers March 3, and he has produced nine points in 12 games since rejoining them.
Avery had three goals and five points in the series versus the Devils but has only three assists in 15 lifetime regular-season games.
Brodeur suffered the first major injury of his stellar career, missing 50 games after left elbow surgery. He returned with a shutout Feb. 26 over Colorado and later broke the NHL record for career wins as the Devils went 9-1-0 in his first 10 games back.
Brodeur has since lost four straight, with the last two coming by a goal - 3-2 in overtime Friday night in Chicago and 2-1 to visiting Carolina as the Hurricanes scored twice in the final 6:55.
"It's got to be a learning experience," said New Jersey coach Brent Sutter, whose team is one point behind Washington for second in the East. "It's playoff hockey now. You're going to get into these one-goal games and you've got to do the detail work and the little things well."
Brodeur is 1-5-3 in his past nine regular-season starts against the Rangers despite a 2.07 goals-against average in that span, and he allowed 16 goals in last season's playoff series.
Like the Devils, the Rangers dropped a pair of one-goal games on their two-game road trip and face a tough slate after Monday's contest with road games in Carolina and Boston.
The Rangers rallied to tie Saturday's game in Pittsburgh at end of the first and second periods, but allowed Penguins star Sidney Crosby to tally the winning score with 10:04 remaining in a 4-3 defeat.
"Certainly today we showed off our character battling from two-goal and one-goal deficits," said Rangers forward Nik Antropov, who has five goals and two assists in his last eight games. "It was so close to tying this game up at the end of the game. We did a lot of good things, and we're going to build on it."
After dropping its first two meetings with New York this season, New Jersey has won three straight and broke a five-game skid at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27 with a 4-2 win.