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Rangers pay visit to snowy New Jersey

by David Kalan /
RANGERS (21-14-2) at DEVILS (9-24-2)


Last 10 --
New York 6-3-1; New Jersey 1-9-0

Season series --
New York leads the season series 2-0, with its most recent meeting with New Jersey a 3-0 victory on Nov. 5 at Prudential Center.

Big story --
The Rangers, in the midst of an impressive campaign, can move to 3-0 against the suddenly hapless Devils in their final time on the ice in 2010.

Team Scope:

Rangers --
A blizzard blanketed New York City early Monday morning, but the Rangers appeared too busy blanketing the Islanders' net in rubber Monday night to notice. The Blueshirts registered 52 shots in a 7-2 win, giving New York its fourth victory in the last six games after Matt Gilroy's goal 44 seconds in set the tone early.

New York's recent run has moved it to sixth in the Eastern Conference (third in the Atlantic Division) while displaying an offense that is finally giving goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who bounced back Monday after losing two straight starts, the kind of support he's often lacked. Marian Gaborik scored in his return after missing one game with a groin injury, while Brian Boyle has chipped in with 4 points in the last two games. Things seem to be going well for the Rangers as they cross the Hudson to start a three-game road trip Wednesday, which will also take them to Tampa Bay and Florida.

Devils -- Offense was never the focus of New Jersey's game when it won three Cups in the late 1990s and early 2000s -- though the Devils actually led the NHL in goals in the 2000-01 season -- but scoring in Newark has been nearly nonexistent recently. In losing their last five games, the Devils scored exactly one goal each time out, with Ohio State alum Rod Pelley winning the lottery in their last game, a 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs on Sunday. The team, as a result of losing 10 of the 11 games it's played in December, has dropped to last in the East with little hope of a turnaround in sight.

Such struggles must be particularly vexing for Jacques Lemaire, a man who coached the team to its first championship in 1995, but has seen the Devils lose both games since he replaced John MacLean on Dec. 23 by a combined score of 9-2. But what must be far more alarming for Lemaire is the shocking play of future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur. Arguably the greatest netminder of all time, Brodeur has a League-worst 17 regulation losses this season against just five wins, and the League's all-time wins leader has surrendered eight goals on the last 28 shots he's faced. Whether Lemaire's answer comes from the front end or the back end, something must change soon if New Jersey is to mount any sort of run at a playoff spot.

Who's hot --
As the World Junior Championships continue in Buffalo, center Derek Stepan, a hero from last year's gold-medal winning U.S. team continues to impress for New York having scored in four straight games. … Given New Jersey's offense of late, much of the team is more tepid than hot, but Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias might be as close as it gets with each tallying 3 points in their last four games. Of course, considering the pair spent all of Sunday night stuck in Elias' car after the recent blizzard stranded them in the middle of New Jersey's Route 280, they might be plenty cold by now.

Injury report --
The Devils' M*A*S*H unit continues to reel with several players still on IR, including star forward Zach Parise (arthroscopic knee surgery). The most recent player to join injured reserve was Matt Taormina, who has been on IR with an ankle injury since Nov. 14. … The Rangers were able to take a deep breath when Gaborik played Monday against the Islanders despite a groin injury, but the Blueshirts are still without Ryan Callahan (broken left hand) for at least another month.

Stat pack --
With the Rangers scoring and winning, the fact that Lundqvist has been having a relatively modest season by his standards seems to have flown under the radar. Lundqvist's record is just 15-12-2 while his .918 save percentage is in the middle of the pack for the League's goalies and his 2.46 goals-against average is the highest of his career.

Puck drop -- New York has had its way with the Devils recently, winning four of its last five games against its Atlantic Division foe, but a win Wednesday could be significant, propelling the Rangers even higher in the East playoff picture while digging New Jersey even further into its stunningly deep hole in the standings.

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