Sunday, April 21, 2013
W2W4: Rangers vs. Devils
By Katie Strang
At a glance: Bounced from the playoffs by the Devils last spring, the Rangers have a prime opportunity to exact some payback when they host their division rivals at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
New York can end the Devils' season with a win, an opportunity they are sure to relish heading into the last week of the regular season. But don't count the Devils out just yet. An unheralded postseason pick last season, the sixth-seeded Devils knocked off the top-ranked Rangers to secure the Eastern Conference title before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals.
Offensive outburst: In throttling both the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres in consecutive nights entering the weekend, the Rangers finally got some "puck luck." The Blueshirts, who have struggled offensively through stretches this season, broke out for a combined 14 goals over their past two wins.
Kovy’s back: The Devils returned star winger Ilya Kovalchuk to their lineup Saturday after he missed 11 games with a shoulder injury. The Devils, whose horrific 10-game winless streak coincided with his absence, have rattled off two straight wins to stave off elimination. Kovalchuk was a minus-1 in Saturday's 6-2 win over the Panthers.
On a roll: Before Thursday's 6-1 rout of the Panthers, Rangers center Brad Richards was held off the score sheet in four straight games. He has since tallied four goals and registered five points, including a hat trick in an 8-4 rout of the Sabres on Friday. It was Richards' first hat trick in 896 career games.
Scoreboard watching: The Rangers remain among the top eight in the playoff bracket, but are fighting to hold on to that last spot with the Winnipeg Jets nipping at their heels. Gaining a point Saturday in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Islanders, the ninth-place Jets are trailing the Rangers by a mere point. The Blueshirts have a game in hand, though, and finish up their regular-season schedule with two games against the Devils (who may be out of playoff contention after today's tilt), and a game apiece against non-playoff teams Florida and Carolina.
Staying alive: A win of any kind for the Devils keeps their playoff hopes -- albeit dim -- alive. In addition to their two games at MSG against the Rangers, the Devils take on top teams Pittsburgh and Montreal in between.