By Jeff O’Connor
New Jersey Devils (4-1-3) vs New York Rangers (4-4-0) 7:00 pm Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
It’s been 256 days since Adam Henrique scored at 1:03 of overtime to eliminate the New York Rangers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals and sent the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup. A lot has changed since these two rivals last met.
The Devils lost superstar forward Zach Parise while the Rangers added stud winger Rick Nash to their squad. A depth player here and there gone for both teams as well, but these are mainly the same players who squared off in the Eastern Conference finals last season.
The Rangers are coming off an impressive win against the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning over the weekend while the Devs snapped a four-game losing streak on Sunday with a shutout of the New York Islanders on the road.
A lot of shifting can take place in the Atlantic tonight. With a win, the Devils can jump back into first place. A victory for the Rangers, and they could potentially be two points back of first.
Here are some questions/thoughts/etc. for tonight’s contest:
1. Kovy must show up. Since his OT winner vs. Washington, he has one assist and is a minus-3 rating in five games. Any surprise the Devils are 1-3-1 in those contests? Maybe not a goal tonight, but he must get on the stat sheet if the Devils are going to win this game.
2. Special teams picking up steam? No one is going to play perfect hockey this few games into the season. What we want to see as fans, is the team slowly improving in different areas. On Sunday, the Devils were 7-for-7 on the PK and went 1-for-3 on the PP. A good sign of things to come? Let’s hope so.
3. Which Marty Brodeur will we see tonight? This might be the biggest question of them all. Will we see the Marty who gave up three total goals in his first three starts? Or the man who has been bombed for 14 goals in his last three games? Time for him to pick his game up again.
4. Who is Henrik Lundqvist? Weird start for him so far. He has made seven starts thus far, with four of them coming against the likes of Boston and Pittsburgh. He’s allowed 13 goals in those four games. His other three starts? Just five. Those trio of starts came against Philadelphia (twice) and Toronto. So against the big offenses…more than three goals a game. Against the weaker teams…less than two goals a game. I’m willing to bet that three is the number the Devs need to get to tonight to grab a pair of points.
5. The others have awoken. We mentioned that most of the scoring from the Rangers this year has come from their top line. On Saturday, a couple of guys who were very key to their success last year got going. Derek Stepan scored the go-ahead goal and Carl Hagelin got the winning goal. If those guys have found their game, it’s going to be a big grind for the Devils defensemen tonight.
Prediction: Rangers 3 Devils 2 OT
After a slow start, the Rangers have steadied their play and put in a tremendous 60-minute effort against a team that got off to a ridiculous start in Tampa. The Devils have yet to do that in any of their four wins so far. I think it’s a close game tonight with a few lead changes, but I think the Rangers win in overtime. Devils, because of their goaltending and fundamentals, are able to get another point, however.
Line 1: Dainius Zubrus-Travis Zajac-Ilya Kovalchuk
Line 2: Patrik Elias-Adam Henrique-David Clarkson
Line 3: Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier
Line 4: Krys Barch-Jacob Josefson-Bobby Butler
Expected Defensive Pairings:
Bryce Salvador-Mark Fayne
Andy Greene-Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov-Marek Zidlicky
Starting Goaltender: Martin Brodeur
Tweet us your predicted score @DevilsInsiders before the puck drops.