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Game 36 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers

Additional goal: Don't let the other team's top forwards split through two of you if you can help it.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Additional goal: Don't let the other team's top forwards split through two of you if you can help it. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
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The Time: 7:00 PM

The Broadcast: TV - MSG (HD) for the Rangers feed & HD; MSG+2 for the Devils feed; Radio - 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (9-24-2) vs. the New York Rangers (21-14-2)

The Last Devils Game: Amid a blizzard outside, it was status quo at the Rock.  Defensive gaffes stood out in a game that the Devils fans saw many times this season.  The New Jersey Devils lost 4-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs and I kept the recap relatively short out of a desire to not repeat myself anymore than I already have.

The Last Rangers Game:The New York Rangers showed up at MSG on Monday with a storm of their own.  Reports indicate that the Islanders were caught between significant offensive drifts and heavy accumulation of goals against.  No word as to whether the Isles are still trying to dig themselves out of the 7-2 loss they suffered.  Please check Jim Schmeideberg's recap at Blueshirt Banter for a firsthand account of Monday's goal-izzard.

The Snowed Out Deal: Unable to make it to Sunday's 4-1 loss to Toronto due to the weather? The Devils have this offer for you to redeem your unused ticket for Sunday's game for a ticket to a game in the future.  Act fast, you've got until Friday to mail something in.

The Goal: There are several goals that come to mind tonight.  I'll list them after the jump.  However, the most important one is to get a result by any means necessary.  While the season may be lost for New Jersey, getting something in a game against Our Hated Rivals would provide some temporary respite from the disappointment that was 2010 for this team.   Even an overtime or shootout loss would be massive given the Devils' 5-game losing streak.  So actually strive for one instead of whatever it is you've been doing recently (or this whole season).

Please go to Blueshirt Banter for a look at tonight's game from a Rangers perspective if, for some reason, you want one. Please continue on for more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump.

As noted earlier, I believe there are multiple goals for the Devils to accomplish if they want to get a win tonight:
  • Do not try to make a cross-ice pass across the slot in your own end with the other team still there.
  • Avoid taking offensive zone penalties.
  • Communicate to each other where the puck may be, especially on a rebound.
  • Avoid the dump-and-chase game unless the opposition is truly unaware.
  • Actually try to score more than 2 goals in a game
  • Actually try to not to be down by 1 to 3 goals after the first period.

They may seem like basic goals, but given that the team has only scored 5 goals and allowed 24 goals in their last 5 games, it pretty much is back to basics with this squad.

I do expect a different kind of performance tonight, though.  Jacques Lemaire had two practices with this team, Vladimir Zharkov was finally called up on Monday, and Brian Rolston was finally put on re-entry waivers on Tuesday.  That transaction not only gives Zharkov his spot in the lineup for tonight but also keeps an incredibly over-paid and under-performing winger away from being further useless for New Jersey.   This Rich Chere post highlights the player reaction, and unsurprisingly some of the players aren't happy about this. At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, I can't say it's undeserved. 

In any case, here's the situation for tonight's game.  Between being worked in practice to playing a hated rival to essentially replacing a useless but possibly liked winger with a possibly useful, younger, and cheaper winger, there should be some fire to the Devils.  Unless the players want to force Lou to make more changes.

Lastly, Lemaire confirmed that Martin Brodeur would start tonight's game per Tom Gulitti's report.  In the same post,  Gulitti also reports Lemaire doesn't believe the rivalry doesn't matter. As much as I can see Lemaire's point, I can't really agree.  It's always a rivalry regardless of how good or bad the teams are.  Even when things are bad, there really isn't much satisfying other than getting temporary bragging rights and claiming victory.  As much as I can understand improved performance despite a loss; what I and Devils fans want in general is a win.  A 10th win of the season before the new year. A win at all before the new year.  And what better than to get it over this team.

Unfortunately, tonight's opponent is coming off a big win over their other rivals, the Islanders.  52 shots on net, 7 goals, and all kinds of good feelings.   When one thinks of the Rangers, Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist usually come up. Both have been good this season and they were on Monday night.  However, it's not just those two that the Devils have to be concerned with tonight.   Brandon Dubinsky is the team's leading scorer with 30 points and put up 2 more (1 goal, 1 assist) on Monday.  Derek Stepan has been one of the league's top rookies with 22 points, third in the NHL behind Logan Couture and Jeff Skinner, and he too had 2 on Monday (1 goal, 1 assist).  Brian Boyle is also a concern, while he may not get big minutes, he does have 13 goals among his 22 points and is coming off a 3 point game against the Isles (1 goal, 2 assists).

The main point is that the Rangers aren't a two-men-of-importance team.  The Devils certainly know that, but I wanted to emphasize it going into tonight's game.  In terms of the Rangers' roster, Andrew Gross' report from Tuesday's practice notes that defenseman Michael Del Zotto will be scratched, winger Vinny Prospal is still not ready to come back from injury, and goon Derek Boogaard is still out with a concussion.   Gaborik is expected to play despite an issue with his groin. 

Even if he wasn't going to, I fear that the Rangers would be more than able to get by against a Devils team that has done plenty to help their opposition before helping themselves.  Which is why getting a result would mean that much more.  No, it's not going to signal a turnaround for this season.  No, it's not going to save this season.  Instead, it would be evidence that the team is improving and can claim a good result over a hated rival amid a month of several bad losses.

The Gamethread will be up later, closer to game time.  I should be able to get to Newark to be in my usual seat, so expect some mobile commenting during the game. In the meantime, please feel free to discuss today's game in the comments. If you want to post any news updates (or corrections or what-have-you), then please do so in the comments with a link to the source. Lastly, thank you for reading. Let's go, Devils.