- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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At a glance: The Devils have a chance to dispose of their Hudson River rivals and secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals with a win on home ice against the Rangers on Friday night in Game 6. There’s no panic from the top-seeded Rangers, however. Although the team has come back only twice in franchise history from a 3-2 series deficit, once was earlier this postseason. And the team has won all three of its games in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs when facing elimination. Can the Devils finish them off? Or will the Rangers fight back again to force a Game 7?
Not dwelling on 1994: Although both clubs are inextricably linked by their iconic meeting in the 1994 Eastern Conference finals, neither team is dwelling on that memorable series 18 years ago. According to veteran netminder Martin Brodeur, who was 22 years old when handed one of the toughest losses of his career, the coincidence has no impact: “I know if you look at it, it looks the same ... but it’s different teams and a different way of playing the game.” Said Rangers coach John Tortorella: “Not to disrespect what happened there, but that has nothing to do with how we’re preparing.”
No guarantee: Ryan Callahan wasn’t willing to go the Mark Messier route and guarantee a victory, but the 27-year-old captain’s play has inspired confidence in the Rangers. After being held off the scoresheet in the first two games of the series, Callahan has three points (two goals, one assist) in the last three games, including a pristine Game 5 performance that featured a goal and a team-leading six hits.
Parise producing: Captain Zach Parise is setting the tone for his high-octane Devils, who have scored four or more goals in five of their last nine games. The 27-year-old winger has five points (three goals, two assists) in the team’s last two games.
History against them: Only twice in franchise history have the Rangers come back from a 3-2 series deficit, although one of those comebacks was earlier this postseason when the team knocked off the Ottawa Senators in Games 6 and 7 in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Playoff performer: While Devils superstars Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk have, at times, struggled to produce this postseason, defenseman Bryce Salvador has been one of the team’s most consistent performers. The 36-year-old veteran, who missed all of last season with a concussion, has three goals and eight assists. In 17 playoff games, he has two points more than he amassed in 82 regular-season contests.
“Best” game prediction: The boldest prediction from the Rangers camp heading into Game 6 was Tortorella’s proclamation that goaltender Henrik Lundqvist would bounce back from a pair of losses. “He’ll play his best game tomorrow night,” Tortorella said Thursday. After shutting out the Devils in two of the first three games of the series, Lundqvist has given up seven goals combined over the last two.