GAME: New Jersey Devils (21-11-9-1) at New York Rangers (18-16-5-4).
TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.
A matchup with the New York Rangers usually provides the New Jersey Devils
with a good chance for a victory. This time, however, the slumping Devils will
be facing a Rangers club coming off perhaps its best game of the season.
Following what may have been their most humbling loss of 2003-04, the Devils
travel to Madison Square Garden for the second meeting of the season between
the Atlantic Division rivals.
The Devils were shut out for the first time on home ice in more than a year
and for only the second time this season Tuesday night, 4-0 at the hands of the
The Senators' Patrick Lalime made 26 saves to hand the Devils their first
shutout at Continental Airlines Arena since he beat them 2-0 on Dec. 18, 2002.
Martin Brodeur, who faced 23 shots, hardly had a chance on any of Ottawa's
first three goals -- all of which came on odd-man rushes.
"They are a talented team," Brodeur said of the Senators. "The way we've
had success is to always play them solid and play them tough. They have been
playing well, but today, we didn't show up enough to win this hockey game."
The Devils lost for the first time in three games against the Senators this
season. New Jersey defeated Ottawa in the Eastern Conference finals last year
en route to its third Stanley Cup championship.
Fans booed loudly as New Jersey fell behind 3-0 in the second period Tuesday
and lost its third straight home game, dropping it to 1-3 in its last four
overall. The Devils, outscored 12-4 during that span, are 3-6-2 in their last
Despite the recent struggles, New Jersey remains in second place in the
division, three points behind the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Devils hope to get their offense going against the Rangers, whom they
defeated 5-0 in the first meeting Nov. 15.
New Jersey, however, may find itself up against what seems like a different
Rangers club this time around. The Rangers put together their most complete
effort of 2003-04 on Tuesday night, defeating the New York Islanders 4-1 at the
Tom Poti had a goal and assist, and Brian Leetch set up two scores as the
Rangers moved into eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The victory was the
Rangers' fourth straight over the Islanders, who entered the game one point
ahead of the Rangers.
"We wish we played more games against those guys," center Petr Nedved said
after the Rangers stretched their unbeaten streak against the Isles to eight
(6-0-2). "We've had their number."
Alex Kovalev, Vladimir Malakhov and Eric Lindros also scored as the Rangers
improved to 1-1 on a three-game homestand and snapped a three-game slide at
MSG. The Rangers put together a strong defensive effort and looked especially
sharp on the power play, converting three times in eight chances.
"We've just got to keep moving along," Lindros said. "We've just got to
dig our heels in a little bit further and harder and keep progressing as a
The Rangers will be facing a Devils team that is 1-2-1 in its last four
games on the road, where New Jersey will play two of its next three.