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Rangers hope to cool off red-hot Devils

by Mike G. Morreale /
RANGERS (31-24-4) at DEVILS (23-30-4)


Last 10 -- Rangers (4-5-1), Devils (8-1-1)

Season series -- This is the fifth of six meetings between the cross-river rivals. The Rangers won the first three by a combined score of 9-2 before the Devils escaped Madison Square Garden with a 3-2 victory on Feb. 3 when Ilya Kovalchuk, Dainius Zubrus and Brian Rolston scored and Brandon Dubinsky's deflection with 0.9 seconds left in regulation hit the left post behind Martin Brodeur. The Rangers are 16-6-2 against the Devils since the start of the 2007-08 season.

Big story -- The Devils continue to hold out hope that the playoffs are a distinct possibility -- although no one has really come out publicly to admit that fact. The Devils improved to 13-1-2 in their last 16 games by beating Carolina 3-2 on Wednesday and stand 13th in the Eastern Conference with 23 wins and 50 points. While the Devils are in desperate need of points in order to make up the still-considerable gap in the standings, the fact they play 23 of their remaining 25 games against Eastern teams is certainly to their benefit. The Rangers, meanwhile, are seventh in the East with 31 wins and 66 points -- four ahead of eighth-seeded Carolina.

"They're ahead of us by a mile," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said of the Rangers. "That hasn't changed. We're still on the same level as we were. It's not a competition (between) the two. It'' not. They're in the playoffs. Us, we're not. It's just a game that the two teams want to get two points. That's what it is."

Team Scope:

Rangers -- Goalie Henrik Lundqvist earned his 200th career win with 25 saves on Thursday with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Los Angeles, giving New York its second straight win after six losses in a row. Ryan Callahan had a goal and an assist. Lundqvist, who enters the game with a 21-8-5 career mark against the Devils, was relieved by Martin Biron with 4:56 to go in the second period of the Feb. 3 loss after allowing three goals on 12 shots. There's no question he'll be motivated to atone for that outing.

Devils -- New Jersey built a 3-0 lead against Carolina on Wednesday and then held on, due in large part to the goaltending of Johan Hedberg. Kovalchuk, Rolston and Patrik Elias scored goals as the Devils defeated the Hurricanes for the second time in nine days and will look to make it three on Saturday at RBC Center. Hedberg, who will get the start against the Rangers, won his fourth straight game in the absence of goalie Martin Brodeur, who's out with a sprained left knee.

"Anybody knows that if your goalie is no good one night, you don't win," Lemaire said. "It's that simple. We're fortunate he's been playing like this. Now he feels responsibilities. I think it's a big part of the difference. He's a competitor, and now he sees the challenge and he steps up."

Who's hot -- Rolston, twice put through waivers this season without being claimed, has produced 16 points during the Devils' recent 13-1-2 run, including 7 goals. ... New York's Brandon Dubinsky has 4 goals and 6 points in the four games against the Devils this season.

Injury report -- Brodeur (non-operable knee sprain) returned to practice on Thursday and hasn't ruled out a possible start in Carolina on Saturday. … New York is without Derek Boogaard (concussion), Chris Drury (knee), Ruslan Fedotenko (shoulder) and Alex Frolov (knee).

Stat pack -- Elias needs just four points to pass retired Ranger Brian Leetch as the career-series scoring leader between the teams. Elias has 18 goals and 61 points in his career against the Blueshirts.

Puck drop -- Hedberg is no slouch against New York -- he's 11-5-2 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in 18 career games against the Rangers. … The Rangers are 7-16-3 when trailing after two periods this season -- their 7 wins, 17 points and .269 winning percentage all rank first in the NHL.

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