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First-place Rangers renew rivalry with Devils

by Dan Rosen
RANGERS (31-12-4) at DEVILS (26-19-3)


Last 10:
New York 7-3-0; New Jersey 5-4-1

Season series: This is only the second of six meetings between the cross-river rivals this season. It's the first of five between now and March 19. The Rangers beat the Devils, 4-1, in Newark on Dec. 20.

Big Story:
These rivals will see plenty of each other over the next 48 days, and the games will have significant meaning for the Devils in their hopes of securing a playoff berth. The Rangers appear to be in a good position now as the top team in the Eastern Conference, but the Devils are in eighth, only a games-played tiebreaker away from ninth.

Team Scope:

Marian Gaborik, Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi, Carl Hagelin and John Tortorella all spent All-Star Weekend in Ottawa while the rest of the players scattered. For instance, Brandon Dubinsky returned home to Alaska and both Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh went home to Minnesota.

Gaborik won the MVP honors at the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game for his hat trick and 4 points. Hagelin was crowned the winner in the Fastest Skater competition.

All that is in the past now as the Rangers gear up for a stretch run they hope leads to the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They lead the Bruins by two points and the Flyers by three points. They also have three more non-shootout wins than the Bruins and one more than the Flyers, who have played one more game than both the Rangers and Bruins.

They're in the middle of a season-long six-game homestand (1-2-1 so far) and they come out of the break with some injury concerns.

Adam Henrique did not practice Monday due to his lingering groin issue. Travis Zajac, who is out with a sore Achilles tendon, doesn't appear close to returning. GM Lou Lamoriello told reporters in Newark on Monday that Zajac, who had surgery on his left Achilles in August, will have to return to Winnipeg to see the surgeon before he gets cleared for skating. There is no timetable for that visit yet.

However, defenseman Andy Greene, who hasn't played since Dec. 6 due to a broken foot, returned to practice Monday and will play in this game. And rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who couldn't attend All-Star Weekend as one of the invited rookies due to soreness in his wrist, had an MRI during the break and nothing turned up.

The Devils recalled Jacob Josefsen, Matt Taormina and Steve Bernier from Albany of the AHL on Monday. Bernier could play if Henrique is not able to go.

Who's Hot:
Devils forward Patrik Elias has 5 points on the homestand and 12 points over the last nine games. … Gaborik has 5 points in the last five games for the Rangers. Ryan Callahan has 4 points in the last two games and 3 goals in the last four games.

Injury Report:
The Devils will be without Zajac (Achilles), while Henrique is questionable after missing Monday's practice with a sore groin. … The Rangers are still without Michael Sauer (concussion) and Steve Eminger (shoulder).

Stat Pack:
The Devils are 7-9-2 against the teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference, but five of their wins have come in a shootout. … The Rangers are 24-9-2 against the Eastern Conference and 9-2 against the Atlantic Division.

Puck Drop:
Lamoriello was asked Monday if he thinks Zajac could potentially miss the remainder of the season with soreness in his left Achilles:

"I'd be surprised," he said. "There's every indication that he'll be OK."

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