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Game Preview #70: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers

Here we go again...

New Jersey Devils v New York Rangers Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (24-39-6) versus the New York Rangers (44-20-6). SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter

The Time: 7:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - MSG, MSG+2

Last Place

The Flyers are no longer the last place team in the Metro. That distinction now belongs to the New Jersey Devils after the Flyers beat the Rangers in a shootout on Sunday. Sure, the Devils have more wins (two) than the Flyers - but the recent run of terrible results has managed to knock the Devils below a team that nearly broke the all-time winless streak. The Flyers did frustrate Igor Shesterkin, to their credit, on Sunday. If the Rangers are smart, they should rest their star goaltender against last place teams.

Why? I mean, aside from obvious chances to give Alexandar Georgiev some consistent reps going into the playoffs in case he needs to aid them in a pinch, Igor Shesterkin has fallen back to earth in his last several games. This might be a bit concerning for the Rangers, as he has never played 40 games in a season before and seemed to start doing worse around his 35th appearance this season. In his last 12 starts, Shesterkin has a 7-4-1 record and a .909 save percentage. In his first 35 games, he had a .941 save percentage.

The Devils, meanwhile, have a few unresolved issues from last game. Ross Johnston interfered with and crosschecked Nathan Bastian away from the play, leading to an injury that kept Bastian in the locker room for the remainder of the game. Then, Oliver Wahlstrom's hit to Jack Hughes' knee led to Hughes leaving the game due to being unable to put pressure on his left skate. Fortunately, Hughes walked off on his own and was seen walking around the Prudential Center after the game - so it may be that it was more of a stinger than anything. At least, that's what I hope. In the future, Hughes might want to avoid cutting around like he did on Wahlstrom and try to absorb the hit or squeeze around the boards. I still think Wahlstrom stuck the knee out, but I also think more than one thing can be true (as opposed to purely clean or not).

Ultimately, the Devils need to focus on winning today. The culture in the locker room is deteriorating to the point that Nico Hischier is left looking depressed on the bench after a tough loss. The Devils need to make some major changes to see to it that the only time we see stuff like this is after a hard-fought playoff series rather than a drop in the bucket of regular season losses.

Since the Devils did not practice yesterday and they have no sense of how much the fan base would appreciate any update at all, we will have to find out more about Jack Hughes later today. If he or Nathan Bastian cannot play, we will see one or both of Michael McLeod and Miles Wood back in the lineup. I would expect to see something like McLeod returning to the fourth line, while Zacha moves up the lines to give one of Mercer or Sharangovich the chance to slide over to center. At this point of the season, I'd rather see Jack Hughes stay healthy - so it is what it is.