The last thing the New Jersey Devils wanted to experience was a loss to the St. Louis Blues, and now the team has to regroup against their Hudson River rivals in the New York Rangers at 1:00 at Prudential Center. The Devils boast a record of 24-12-3 and 51 points, but they are barely holding on to their second place spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers, meanwhile, have won three in a row and have a 22-12-6 record and 50 points, one behind New Jersey.
While the game against St. Louis was tied after two periods, thanks to two goals from All-Star Jack Hughes, St. Louis put up three goals in the third period to top the Devils, 5-3. It marked the eighth straight home loss for the Black and Red, who are 10-10-2 at The Rock. Hughes was the star of the show, scoring his 23rd and 24th goals of the year, the latter of which he maneuvered his way around the Blues defense with ease. “He’s a guy that every day is going to practice, he’s there for the extra work,” head coach Lindy Ruff said of the 2019 first-overall pick. It also marked the return to the lineup for Ondrej Palat, who was playing for the first time since Oct. 24 against Detroit. “I just wanted to do the little things right, especially in the first game back,” Palat said.
Related: Devils’ Palat Returning at the Perfect Time
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The Devils and Rangers split the two games at Madison Square Garden, with New Jersey coming out on top, 5-3, on Nov. 28 while the Blueshirts won, 4-3, in overtime on Dec. 12, thanks to Filip Chytil. The Devils are playing their last game in Prudential Center until Jan. 22. Until then, New Jersey will be on their West Coast road trip throughout mid-January, playing the Seattle Kraken as well as the three California teams before retuning back home to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Devils Projected Lines:
Ondrej Palát – Nico Hischier – Jesper Bratt
Erik Haula – Jack Hughes – Tomas Tatar
Miles Wood – Michael McLeod – Alexander Holtz
Yegor Sharangovich – Jesper Boqvist – Dawson Mercer
Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Graves – Damon Severson
Kevin Bahl – Brendan Smith
* = As of this writing, it has not been confirmed by Ruff who will start in net this afternoon
The Rangers Projected Lines:
Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Kaapo Kakko
Artemi Panarin – Vincent Trocheck – Vitali Kravtsov
Alexis Lafreniere – Filip Chytil – Jimmy Vesey
Sammy Blais – Barclay Goodrow – Julien Gauthier
Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller – Jacob Trouba
Ben Harpur – Braden Schneider
What’s Happening in New York:
The Rangers are slowly catching the Devils in the standings, and after a three-game winning streak, they are one point behind their bitter rivals. Their latest victory came on Dec. 5 over the Montreal Canadiens, 4-1. New York played a strong game in front of goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 17 Habs shots. Chris Kreider, Braden Schneider, and Filip Chytil each found the back of the net for the Rangers, with Chytil putting up his first multi-goal game of the season. Kreider’s goal was shorthanded, and it was his 18th of the season, one behind team leader Mika Zibanejad. “I thought in the second we started to get pucks to the net and things started to go our way a little bit,” head coach Gerard Gallant said of the game turning in the Rangers’ favor. Following his performance, Halak said, “it’s a nice win for us and a good two points in the standings.”
Related: Rangers’ “Kid Line” Once Again Providing Spark
New York will try to make it four games in a row with a victory this afternoon, and after their dance with the Devils, they have two games against the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars next week before a Sunday rematch against the Canadiens on Jan. 15. All of those games are at Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers have flourished as of late, winning six of seven. The Metropolitan Division is tight, with the Washington Capitals gaining ground, so if the Rangers want to establish themselves as a serious Cup contender, every game matters for them, especially at this crucial point in the season.
Keep an Eye On:
New Jersey Devils: Tomas Tatar
Even though Tomas Tatar was not able to find the back of the net against the Blues, he had some very good chances that were stopped by St. Louis netminder Jordan Binnington. He finished with seven shots on goal, and easily could have had a goal or two had Binnington been off his game. He last scored on Dec. 23 against the Boston Bruins, but he has an assist in three of the past five games. Tatar is having his bounce back season, and he has 24 points in 39 games. Ruff is also recognizing Tatar’s impressive streak, playing him on the top line along with Hughes and Bratt, two of the Devils’ best players.
New York Rangers: Igor Shesterkin
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Igor Shesterkin, is playing some of the best hockey of the season over the past number of games. The man nicknamed “Shesty” is coming off a Jan. 3 victory against the Hurricanes, where he only allowed three goals in the victory. He has not allowed four goals in a game in over a month, and with the Rangers in the thick of the playoff race, Shesterkin has stepped up. He has an 18-6-5 record with a 2.43 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage, putting himself in the mix for the Vezina Trophy once again.
Where to Watch:
The rivalry game between the Devils and Rangers will be shown on both MSG and MSGSN. MSGSN has the game with the Devils announce team of Bill Spaulding and Ken Danyeko, while MSG will showcase the Rangers, with Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti on the call. NHL Network will also carry the game for Devils and Rangers fans who live out of market. The Devils Hockey Network will provide radio coverage with Jason Shaya and Chico Resch commentating the action.
Erik Johnsen is one of the NJ Devils writer for The Hockey Writers. He is also a writer for Triple Play Newsletter. Erik is a 2022 Rider University graduate, and co-hosts a podcast called Too Many Men.
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