W2W4: Rangers vs. Devils

The Devils return home from their road trip on a high note, while the Rangers try to get back on track after last night’s dismantling in Philadelphia. Here are three factors to focus on in tonight’s game at The Rock.

Missing Ryan Callahan
Blog buddy E.J. Hradek posted today on the five most exciting players in the NHL. Callahan did not make said list, but I think he’d make mine. Every night the effort level is first rate. He plays the body. He crashes the net. He never lets up and makes the most of his talent.

He may not be able to dangle like Patrick Kane or shoot like Alex Ovechkin, but he’s productive and sets an exciting tone night in and night out.

All of that said, Callahan will miss Friday’s game after getting checked into the boards head-first by Kimmo Timonen. The Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan line has carried the Rangers’ offense with Marian Gaborik on the shelf. It will be interesting to see if the line has success without the spark plug on the right wing.

Hedberg’s Redemption
New Jersey’s win in Chicago cost the Devils their starting goalie as Martin Brodeur took a shot of the elbow and will miss the Rangers’ game with a bad bruise. Johan Hedberg has not been good when he’s spelled Brodeur, giving up three goals to the Blackhawks (after coming in cold, to be fair) and posting a 6.55 GAA and .812 SV% on the season. The Devils could really use a second straight W, and in order to grab it, Hedberg will have to play well, given New Jersey’s scoring woes (1.79 goals per game).

Kovalchuk’s Return
With a pair of assists Wednesday, Ilya Kovalchuk ended his four-game point drought. He still hasn’t put more than two shots on goal since heading out west. However, Kovalchuk’s second-highest shot total this season (5) came in the Devils’ first meeting with the Rangers this season. That game also marked the last time the $100 million man lit the lamp. Maybe a familiar foe will help him break out.