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Rangers-Devils Preview

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GAME: New York Rangers (44-26-12) at New Jersey Devils (46-27-9).

PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

TIME: Saturday, 3 p.m. EDT.

Three-time Stanley Cup winner Martin Brodeur has reached many milestones in a career as one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history.

One achievement missing is a postseason series win over the New York Rangers.

Brodeur leads the streaking New Jersey Devils against the Rangers, who are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

The Devils closed out the regular season in record fashion by winning 11 straight games, passing both the Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers to win the Atlantic Division and claim the third seed.

"It's mind boggling," Brodeur said. "You're thinking about it and you are shaking your head saying, 'How did we do this?' We don't say there are 11 games left, let's win them all. We needed a lot of help from everybody but we still needed to win 11 games. I think it's amazing."

New Jersey had trailed then-division leading Philadelphia by 19 points on Jan. 6 before mounting the biggest comeback to win a division title since expansion created two conferences in 1974.

Brodeur - who had a league-high 43 wins - was in net throughout the winning streak and allowed only 22 goals.

"We got back to the old Devils that everyone wanted to change in hockey," said Brodeur, who went 4-2-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average against the Rangers this season. "People said they didn't want these types of games anymore. Now we are doing it again, and I'm just hopeful we'll do it again when it counts."

With 446 regular-season wins and 80 shutouts, as well as 84 playoff wins and 20 postseason shutouts, Brodeur has Hall of Fame-caliber credentials. But his postseason lack of success against the Rangers leaves a glaring void.

In 1997, the top-seeded Devils lost to the Rangers in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

In 1994, Brodeur allowed a wraparound by Stephane Matteau in the second overtime of Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals. The Rangers then defeated the Vancouver Canucks to win their first Stanley Cup title in 54 years.

Brodeur also was in net for an 8-5 loss to the Rangers in the 1992 Patrick Division semifinals and is 4-9 with one shutout despite a 1.99 GAA lifetime against them.

Right wing Brian Gionta will be called upon to give Brodeur offensive support after a record-setting season. The 5-foot-7 Gionta set a Devils franchise record with 48 goals, including two in Tuesday's 4-3 win over Montreal that clinched the Atlantic title.

Gionta, who bettered Pat Verbeek's mark of 47 set in the 1986-87 season, had 12 goals and 13 assists in a season-ending 15-game points streak.

While the Devils have a playoff-tested veteran goaltender, the Rangers will counter with rookie Henrik Lundqvist, a key contributor to New York's surprising turnaround.

"It might be the first year for him in the NHL but he's not 18 years old. He's 22 years old. He was playing a lot in the Swedish league and on the international level," said New York's Jaromir Jagr. "We've got a lot of confidence in him, he showed us in the year that he can stop a lot of pucks and he can win the games for us, and hopefully he can continue to do that during the playoffs."

Lundqvist set a Rangers rookie record with 30 wins and also backstopped Sweden to the gold medal in the Olympics. He missed seven games to rest an injured hip, and he looked rusty in New York's 5-1 season-ending loss Tuesday to Ottawa.

"I felt good for two periods and then I got tired in the third," said Lundqvist, who was 2-0-1 with a 1.64 GAA against New Jersey.

The Rangers were well on their way to their first division title since 1994 until a season-ending five-game losing streak. Jagr had only one goal and four assists in those games, ending his chance for a sixth Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top scorer.

"Maybe we are tired and we're making mistakes, but this is not the way you want to go into the playoffs," admitted Jagr, who was held to three assists in his last five games against the Devils.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Rangers - 100 points; 6th seed. Devils - 101 points; 3rd seed.

REGULAR SEASON TEAM LEADERS: Rangers - Jagr, 54 goals, 69 assists goals and 123 points; Darius Kasparaitis, 97 PIM. Devils - Gionta, 48 goals and 89 points; Scott Gomez, 51 assists; Colin White, 91 PIM.

REGULAR SEASON SPECIAL TEAMS: Rangers - Power play: 18.9 percent (83 for 440), 6th (tied). Penalty killing: 83.7 percent (407 for 486), 10th (tied). Devils - Power play: 17.8 percent (78 for 439), 18th. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent (285 for 348), 16th.

GOALTENDERS: Rangers - Lundqvist (30-12-9, 2 SO, 2.24 GAA); Kevin Weekes (14-14-3, 1, 2.95). Devils - Brodeur (43-23-7, 5, 2.57); Scott Clemmensen (3-4-2, 0, 3.35)

REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Devils, 4-3-1. New Jersey won the last two games to salvage a split of the season series, but the Rangers outscored the Devils 19-17 in the eight games.

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