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GAME DAY: Rangers Renew a Rivalry, and their Schedule

Georgiev to Start as Blueshirts Open Back-to-Back in Jersey

by Michael Obernauer

RANGERS at DEVILS, 7 p.m.
October 17th, 2019 
Prudential Center
NBCSN, 1050 AM

GAME DAY

There are numerous new facets to a fierce old rivalry as the Rangers and Devils get set to renew acquaintances on Thursday night in Newark. To get a full sense of how much all those new facets are commanding players' attention inside the Rangers' room, just ask Henrik Lundqvist.

"Not much," Lundqvist said with a smile and a shrug. "There's a lot of different storylines with the draft picks and the free-agent signings on both teams, and a lot of times it's these little extra things that make rivalries special to think about. That's great for the fans. For us it's an important game just to go out and get a win."

After the kind of summer moves that were made on both sides of the Hudson River, there will be plenty for a national TV audience to chew on in the 248th regular-season matchup of these franchises. Inside the Rangers' room, though, the Blueshirts see their first division game of the season not only as an opportunity for a bounceback performance, but an opportunity simply to play a game again, something they have done only once in the past 11 days, and three times so far in 2019-20, fewest in the NHL. Now they'll play three in the next four days.

"Right now I'm just excited to play a hockey game," David Quinn said. "It has a little added flavor because it is a division opponent and it's the Devils. … Both teams are looking for a win, and hopefully that's way more important than any individual matchup, and I'm pretty sure it is."

"Of course I'm excited to play again, after the four days off," added Kaapo Kakko. "But it's not like me against Jack Hughes. It's Devils against Rangers."

Quinn and the Rangers have had to sit for four days on Saturday's Garden loss to the Oilers, their first loss of the season. With their first back-to-back set of the season now upon them, Quinn will give the nod to Alexandar Georgiev in Newark, with Lundqvist ready to go on Friday night in Washington. 

Georgiev will face a Devils team that has sputtered from the get-go, off to an 0-4-2 start and the only remaining winless team in the NHL. The Rangers are keenly aware of their circumstances.

"That's going to be a desperate team," said Marc Staal, who will skate in his 56th regular-season game against New Jersey. "We'd better be ready to match that."

Kakko was the man who opened the scoring in Saturday's game, his first goal in the NHL, and describing his growing comfort in each of his first three NHL games, he said: "That first goal, it helps me so much."

On Thursday night he will skate with a new centerman, with Quinn set to give Brett Howden a look in between the rookie and Chris Kreider. How the rest of the lineup shakes out will depend largely on the status of Brendan Lemieux, who has been fighting off a flu that has hit more than one person in the Rangers' room.

The Rangers will make a decision on Lemieux closer to game time; Micheal Haley took heavy reps in practice this week as the fourth line left wing and would be in line to play his first game for the Blueshirts since 2013.

Georgiev, meanwhile, will start for the second time this season and the second time in his young career against the Devils - he needed just 19 saves for a 5-2 win back on Feb. 23 at the Garden. The 23-year-old turned in a sharp debut to 2019-20, stopping 31 of 32 shots to win in Ottawa; he has had 11 idle days since beating the Senators.

The Devils have lost all six games they've played this season, and in various ways: They squandered a four-goal lead against Winnipeg in their Opening Night game on Oct. 4; in their most recent game, on Monday, they let a three-goal lead slip in a 6-4 loss to the Panthers. In between, they have been shut out twice.

Monday's loss to Florida opened a six-game homestand that carries them into November, and New Jersey, already without captain Andy Greene (upper body), lost center Nico Hischier to an upper-body injury early in that game. Hischier, the 2017 first-overall draft pick and the Devils' leader in assists last season, is unlikely for Thursday; Hughes would step into his spot centering the top line between Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri.

PROJECTED LINEUP

10 Panarin - 93 Zibanejad - 89 Buchnevich
20 Kreider - 21 Howden - 24 Kakko
42 Smith - 16 Strome - 17 Fast
38 Haley - 28 Andersson - 14 McKegg

25 Hajek - 8 Trouba
18 Staal - 77 DeAngelo
76 Skjei - 23 Fox

40 Georgiev
30 Lundqvist

NUMBERS GAME
The Rangers have played three games this season, fewest in the League. Twenty-five teams have played six or more.

Both Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome torched the Devils last season, Zibanejad with eight points in four games, including his first hat trick in a Blueshirt, and Strome with five points, four of them goals, in four games after his trade to New York. Strome has scored nine times in 20 career games against the Devils, his highest goal total against any opponent.

The Rangers' power play is 3-for-9 on the season and will face a Devils PK that has killed just 12 of 21 penalties, a League-worst 57.1 percent.

Only once since moving to New Jersey in 1982 have the Devils gone winless in the first seven games of a season, an 0-4-3 start in 2013-14.

The Devils have been outscored 27-13 this season.

Cory Schneider's next game will be his 303rd for New Jersey, passing Chris Terreri for second all-time among Devils goaltenders. Just 956 more and he'll catch Martin Brodeur.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Artemi Panarin has four points (2-2--4) in three games as a Ranger; in six career games at Prudential Center the winger has posted 11 points.

Nikita Gusev, whom New Jersey acquired in a summer trade with Vegas, scored in his NHL debut on Oct. 4 and is one of three Devils to have scored twice this season. The 27-year-old winger was teammates on SKA St. Petersburg with Igor Shesterkin for the last four seasons, and with Pavel Buchnevich in 2015-16.

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