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Game Preview #68: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers

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Coming off a borderline shocking win against the Blues, the Devils are onto the next playoff team on their schedule - the rivals.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
Where does Blackwood rank amongst Metropolitan goaltenders?
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (27-28-12) at the New York Rangers (36-27-4). SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

The Time: 7:00 PM ET

Schneider Still Looking Good: Cory Schneider is not far away from having a .900 save percentage on the season. With last night’s game, Cory Schneider has a 3-2-1 record with a .922 save percentage in his seven appearances since he was originally assigned to Binghamton. On the season, Schneider is now 3-6-2 with an .887 save percentage and 3.53 goals against average. He won’t be the goalie going tonight, but he has taken some weight off Blackwood’s shoulders with the longest stretch of serviceable backup goaltending the Devils have gotten this season. Cory Schneider has had previous instances of impressive save percentage turnarounds in the past few seasons, and this looks to be one of them.

Blackwood and Shesterkin: Tonight, I would presume that MacKenzie Blackwood is starting for the New Jersey Devils. Blackwood is 21-13-8 this season with a .916 save percentage and 2.71 goals against average.

The bigger story is Igor Shesterkin, who fractured some of his ribs a couple weeks ago in a car accident. Pavel Buchnevich was also in the car accident. Despite an original timeline of needing to be re-evaluated a few weeks after the injury, Shesterkin practiced yesterday and may be seen in net tonight.

It would be quite stunning if Shesterkin played tonight, given when his injury was first announced he was considered an indefinite absence. Shesterkin is 9-1-0 this season with a .940 save percentage and 2.23 goals against average. Amazingly, he does not have a shutout yet - so he has been consistently that good.

The Five-Goal Scorer: Mika Zibanejad made headlines recently when he scored five goals in a Rangers overtime win. Sometimes I wonder why I have not seen his name brought up more in Hart Trophy discussions (at least as a contender). This season he has 38 goals and 33 assists in 54 games. His 71 points is just three fewer than the career high he set last season in a full 82 games.

With how bad the Devils’ defense has been at times lately, I’m a little worried about how they’ll be able to handle a team on a warpath to the playoffs. It’s easy to only think about Artemi Panarin, who is nearing 100 points on the season and is sure to pass that mark. But Zibanejad is too much to handle for the Devils’ centers - the only one I trust to be in a matchup with the Rangers’ top line is Nico Hischier. Travis Zajac, for all of his defensive goodness, is too slow to keep up with them. So tonight, I hope to see Hischier matched up against Zibanejad to slow down their first line production.

Your Thoughts: What do you think about tonight’s game? Are you excited to see Blackwood face Shesterkin (maybe)? Do you think Connor Carrick will ever have five shots in a game again? Do you want to win or lose tonight? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.