Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Game: Rangers @ Devils, 6 of 8

The New Jersey Devils continue their homestand by hosting the New York Rangers tonight.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Rangers: 2-2-1
NHL.com Preview

There is plenty to go over for tonight's game. First, is the arrival of Sean Avery as mentioned in the preview as well as this article from the Star Ledger via the AP. Avery has a rep of being an obnoxious goon who plays like one. You may remember him as the guy Colin White destroyed way back in New Jersey's visit to Los Angeles to take on the Kings. Tonight should be his first as a Ranger. Incidentally and secondly, Cam Janssen has been brought up from Lowell as Rod Pelley has been sent down - so says Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger. I don't think I need to spell out why Cam is back in the lineup for tonight's game. Janssen's return should mean the return of Jim Dowd to center the fourth line, as Pelley plays center and Janssen does not.

Third, the same Chere article notes that David Hale did not practice due to a cold and may not play tonight. A quick look at the Devils roster on their main page has Mark Fraser on it for some reason. I assume that means Fraser has been called up for tonight in place of Hale? Who knows.

Fourth, I'd like to point out two recent articles covering both teams. There has been a lot of hubbub, hullabaloo, and heat blown about just from Rangers captain Brendan Shanahan last week after the Rangers lost 2-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He believes the refs have it in for Jaromir Jagr. Somehow, I'm not surprised this came after a loss. Amazingly, he was not fined; and more amazingly is that someone actually feels this evidence-less accusation means anything. In contrast, Chere's article from Monday's Star Ledger highlights the Devils' goal for this season: Lord Stanley's Cup. Not the Prince of Wales trophy, not a division title; but the championship and sports' greatest trophy. The Rangers are making excuses and blowing games as of late, whereas New Jersey plays hard even late to win games and has set their goals as high as they can. (Note: All other articles are through the Star Ledger as reported by the AP.)

Fifth, this brings us to tonight's game. The Devils have looked good in all non-power play aspects in decisively defeating the Buffalo Sabres. The Rangers have struggled, losing their last 3 including last night's third-period choke job to lose 4-3 to the Detroit Red Wings. The Rangers, or at least their fans, should be hungry and look to take at least one point on the second half of this back-to-back set. The Rangers are looking up the wrong end of the standings, sitting in eleventh place; 5 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for that last and important playoff spot. Given how tight the race is in the Eastern Conference, now is a terrible time to drop leads and lose games. What's worse for the Rangers is that their top scorer (and referee target according to Shanahan) Jaromir Jagr (19 G, 44 A) may not even play tonight due to what I believe is a hip flexor injury.

That said, the Devils should not take tonight's game easily. It is still a rivalry game and the Rangers still pack a punch up front even without Jagr, as evidenced by captain Brendan Shanhan (27 G, 24 A), Michael Nylander (18 G, 39 A), and Martin Straka (24 G, 34 A). Jagr may still play tonight, he is only listed as questionable after all. Furthermore, Henrik Lundqvist boasts of a strong record against the Devils. He is 5-1-1 with a 1.69 GAA against the Devils lifetime and he'll be looking to rebound after his poor performance last night.

All this said about the Rangers, but what about the Devils? Why, that's the easiest thing to write. You know how the Devils performed against Buffalo? That was excellent in nearly all facets of the game. They won battles on the boards, they owned the pace of the game, they pressured the opposing defense and goaltenders often, they tried to take turnovers as much as possible, and they didn't panic or get too discouraged when the puck wasn't bouncing their way. If the Devils do that (and possibly improve their finishing ability), they'll be fine in tonight's contest. The Sabres are a class above the Rangers and if the Devils played as they did against the Sabres more often, we'd be talking about how New Jersey leads the conference much less the division.

I won't be able to see it thanks to a night class, so all the same I say GO DEVILS!


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