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Playoff positioning at stake in New Jersey, Calgary

by Adam Kimelman
There are only two games on the schedule tonight, but both have major playoff implications.

The New Jersey Devils host their cross-river rivals, the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN). Were the season to end today, these teams would meet in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, with the third-seeded Devils having the home-ice advantage on the sixth-place Rangers.

Later, the Montreal Canadiens visit the Northwest Division-leading Calgary Flames (9 p.m. ET, RDS).

Here's what to watch for:

* This will be Brendan Shanahan's first game against the Rangers, the team he played with the previous two seasons. He had 52 goals in 140 regular-season games, and 6 goals in 20 playoff games with New York. He had hoped to return to the team this season, but after waiting for 3 1/2 months, he signed with the Devils in January, and has 3 goals in eight games. In 38 career games against the Rangers, Shanahan has 18 goals and 40 points.

* The Rangers have lost four straight, including a 10-2 drubbing against Dallas on Friday night that marked the club's worst defensive performance since a 10-4 loss to Pittsburgh on April 9, 1993. They're sixth in the Eastern Conference and third in the Atlantic Division, six points behind the first-place Devils.

* Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist missed Friday's game due to the flu, and his availability for tonight is questionable. His club certainly hopes he's feeling better. In 22 games against the Devils, he's 14-4-4 with a 1.87 goals-against average.

* The Devils lead the Atlantic Division by four points, but they've lost two of three following their eight-game win streak. They've also lost two straight at home, where they're just 15-10-1 this season.

* After a scorching January that saw them go 8-3-0, the Flames have lost their first four games in February, including the first two games of their current three-game homestand.

* The Canadiens start a six-game, 11-day road trip tonight. Montreal has lost five straight away from Bell Centre, being outscored 22-10 in that span.

* This will be Carey Price's first game against the Flames. The Canadiens goalie is 2-6-0 with a 3.50 GAA in his last nine games after missing eight with a lower-body injury.

* This is the Canadiens' first trip to Calgary since a 3-2 loss Jan. 19, 2006. The last time Montreal won at the Pengrowth Saddledome was a 4-2 decision Jan. 5, 2002.

* Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has lost his last three starts, but still leads the League with 30 wins. In seven games against the Canadiens, he's 3-3-0 with a 2.98 GAA; in one game this season, he allowed four goals on 31 shots in a 4-1 loss Dec. 9.

Contact Adam Kimelman at
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