The Rangers crossed the icy waters of the Hudson to take on the Devils Wednesday night. Here are three factors to keep in mind when the action starts.
The Rangers are coming off a 7-2 rout of the New York Islanders. The Devils … well … aren’t. New Jersey has scored just five goals in five games, never lighting the lamp more than once in each contest. The first thing Jacques Lemaire needs to do with the Devs is convince them that there are better ways to conserve electricity.
The best bet for the Devils to ignite some offensive fireworks will likely come from their top line of Ilya Kovalchuk-Travis Zajac-Mattias Tedenby. Those are the best playmakers this team has (with the possible exception of Patrik Elias), but they’ll also be facing the Rangers’ top defensive pairing of Marc Staal and Daniel Girardi. Over the past six games the defensive duo has combined for a plus-five rating.
A Brodeur Bounceback
By his excellent standards, Martin Brodeur is having a horrible season. The super goalie hasn’t posted a GAA over 3 or a save percentage under .900 since his first four-game taste of the league in 1991-92. But, as you may have guessed from that intro, he hasn’t cleared either of those marks this season. In practice, Brodeur took out his frustrations on an unfortunate goalie stick, so you can bet he’ll put some pressure on himself to perform well against a familiar foe. In his only meeting with the Blueshirts this season he allowed 2 goals on 33 shots.
Derek Stepan is scalding hot right now, as is the whole Ranger top line of Mats Zuccarello, Stepan and Marian Gaborik. The rookie has goals in four straight and really seems to have found his stride between two other playmakers. Stepan’s streak is injecting him back into the Calder Trophy race in my humble opinion and if he continues to center Gaborik, I’d expect him to remain in the thick of that hunt for the rest of the season.
Stepan has been a large part of the Rangers’ scoring boost this season, with the Blueshirts currently boasting a 3.1 goals-per-game average. The last time the Rangers were over 3 goals per game for the season was 2005-06 when just about every team enjoyed a scoring boost due to the new rules and stricter penalty enforcement coming out of the lockout.