Beating the rival New York Rangers has been enough of a problem this season for the New Jersey Devils. Doing it against a well-rested Henrik Lundqvist will only make that more difficult.
The Devils hope to snap a four-game losing streak to their metropolitan-area rivals on Friday night when the teams meet at the Prudential Center.
New Jersey (28-19-3) has failed to win in nine games this season against its two biggest rivals - the Rangers and New York Islanders. Despite that 0-6-3 record, New Jersey, which is 0-2-2 against the Rangers, is only two points behind Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia.
Because of his success against New Jersey, it's not a surprise that Rangers coach Tom Renney chose to start backup Stephen Valiquette at Philadelphia on Wednesday and save Lundqvist for the Devils.
|Henrik Lundqvist is 4-0-0 against the Devils this season and 9-2-3 lifetime with a 1.46 GAA. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Lundqvist has been in net for all four Rangers' wins this season against New Jersey, allowing only three goals while recording two shutouts and a 0.78 goals-against average. Lundqvist is 9-2-3 with a 1.46 GAA in 14 career starts versus the Devils.
New York (25-22-6) certainly didn't miss its No. 1 goaltender on Thursday as Valiquette stopped 20 shots for his first career shutout in a 4-0 win over the Flyers.
"As long as we carry it over tomorrow in New Jersey and Sunday in Montreal, then we're back in the playoff picture and nobody can count us out anymore," Valiquette said.
The seldom-used backup blanked a Philadelphia team that hadn't scored fewer than three goals in a game since Jan. 4. Valiquette recorded his third win of the season and his first shutout in 21 career appearances.
"I'm pumped, yeah, but with a 4-0 win, we're more excited about that as a team than a shutout for me, that's for sure," Valiquette said.
|The Devils hope captain Jamie Langenbrunner will be available to play tonight. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha, Chris Drury and Brendan Shanahan scored for the Rangers, who ended a six-game road winless streak (0-4-2) with their third victory in four games overall.
"They seem to bring out the best in us and it's a hostile environment here," Renney said. "We wanted to make sure we took the crowd out of it and tried to play our game. We had that success tonight."
The win moved New York out of last place in the Atlantic and within five points of the Flyers.
This will be the second game for Rangers center Scott Gomez back in New Jersey, where he spent his first seven seasons. He has a team-high four points in three games against his former team.
One bad period has cost the Devils in each of their last two games. They allowed three second-period goals in a 4-2 loss to visiting Pittsburgh on Tuesday after they were outshot 20-3 in the third period of a 4-3 defeat to Montreal in the previous contest.
Mike Rupp scored his first two goals of the season for the Devils, who have lost four of six overall, with each defeat coming at home. The Devils have scored only seven goals in those losses.
"We haven't stayed within our game. We've had mental breakdowns," coach Brent Sutter said. "When our team is playing well it is because our detail to our game is very good. Right now it isn't where it needs to be."
Sutter hopes to have captain Jamie Langenbrunner back Friday. Langenbrunner, tied for fourth on the team with 26 points, sat out Tuesday with flu-like symptoms.
Zach Parise and Brian Gionta - New Jersey's leading scorers - have combined for no goals and one assist this season against the Rangers.