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New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils

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GAME: New York Rangers (26-38-7-8) at New Jersey Devils (41-24-12-2).

TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Not too long ago, the New Jersey Devils were worried about falling into seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

If they continue their recent strong play, they might be one of the top three seeds.

New Jersey looks to move into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division when it meets the rival New York Rangers for the sixth and final time this season.

The Devils moved within two points of the division-leading Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday by beating the New York Islanders 3-2 at home.

New Jersey, 5-2-1 in its last eight contests, has three games left to catch the Flyers, but the Devils don't seem too concerned about where they will finish in the standings.

"We just have to win these final hockey games," Devils center Scott Gomez said. "We're not worrying about Philly. To be honest, I think that's what got us in trouble in the past. We've got three games left and then the real dance starts, so we want to be going at full steam."

Patrik Elias had a goal and two assists, and Scott Niedermayer and Brian Gionta also scored on Sunday for the Devils. Martin Brodeur made 12 saves for his 36th win.

"We just have to keep winning," Elias said. "We'll know soon how it turns out."

The Rangers did the Devils a favor in their last outing, beating the Flyers 3-1 in Philadelphia on Saturday to snap a season-high, eight-game losing streak.

Stephen Valiquette played goal in place of the injured Mike Dunham, and made 38 saves in his first NHL start in almost four years.

Valiquette was recalled from Hartford of the AHL after Dunham bruised his shoulder during the first period of a 4-2 loss to Nashville on Thursday. Valiquette was obtained from the Edmonton Oilers on March 3 as part of the trade for Petr Nedved.

Valiquette went 2-0 for the New York Islanders in 1999-2000, recording a 2-1 win at Ottawa in his last start on April 6, 2000.

"This was really a big thrill for me," said Valiquette, whose only other NHL action this season was 14 minutes of relief work with the Oilers. "Coming into Philly was obviously a momentous challenge. I was ready for it. I felt like I was a kid who studied well for a math exam. I felt like I put my work in and I was ready to play."

STANDINGS: Rangers - 67 points, 4th place, 31 PB, Atlantic Division. Devils - 96 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Rangers - Jaromir Jagr, 31 goals, 43 assists and 74 points; Dale Purinton, 117 PIM. Devils - Elias, 37 goals and 76 points; Gomez, 54 assists; Colin White, 94 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 28): Rangers - Power play: 13.9 percent (44 for 316), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.4 percent (301 for 379), 29th. Devils - Power play: 15.5 percent (46 for 296), 20th. Penalty killing: 85.0 percent (215 for 253), 6th.

GOALTENDERS: Rangers - Jamie McLennan (12-12-3, 4 SO, 2.32 GAA); Valiquette (1-0-0, 2.43). Devils - Brodeur (36-25-11, 10, 2.04); Scott Clemmensen (3-1-0, 2, 1.01).

SEASON SERIES: Devils, 3-1-1.

LAST MEETING: March 15; Devils, 3-1. At New York, Elias, Jan Hrdina and Jay Pandolfo each had a goal, and Brodeur need to make just 16 saves as the Devils ran their unbeaten streak at Madison Square Garden to seven games (4-0-3).

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 13-18-4-4 on the road; Devils - 21-12-5-1 at home.


Associated Press
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