At a glance: Almost three months into the season and Tuesday marks the first meeting between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. The Hudson River rivals square off at Newark’s Prudential Center with the Devils (18-13-1) riding a four-game winning streak that has them only three points removed from the Blueshirts (18-8-4) in the Eastern Conference standings.
Depleted on D: Already without cornerstone defenseman Marc Staal (concussion) and Michael Sauer (concussion), the Rangers lost another key piece to their blue line this past weekend. 27-year-old Steve Eminger is expected to miss eight weeks with a separated right shoulder suffered in the team’s 3-2 win over Phoenix Saturday. Third-pair defenseman Jeff Woywitka is also questionable with a foot/ankle injury.
Elias out sick: Devils leading scorer Patrik Elias is out Tuesday due to illness. The 35-year-old assistant captain, who recently captured the Devils all-time goal-scoring record, also did not practice Monday while feeling sick. Elias, who has 13 goals and 26 assists, has played in all 32 Devils games this season.
Moving on up: Devils’ Travis Zajac will move up to second-line center in Elias’ absence. The 26-year-old pivot, who missed the first 30 games of the season after suffering an Achilles injury this offseason, will center a line between Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus. In his first two games back, Zajac averaged 15:28 in ice per game.
Help on the way: The Rangers recalled both Stu Bickel and Tim Erixon from the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League. The 6-4, 207-pound Bickel is set to make his NHL debut. Erixon will play in his tenth game this season for the Rangers if Woywitka is unable to play.
Zach Attack: Devils captain Zach Parise is on a roll. The 27-year-old winger has five goals and 11 assists in the past 11 games, three goals and five assists in the last five. He registered his first four-point effort (one goal, three assists) of the season in the team’s 6-3 win over Dallas on Friday.
Lundqvist vs. Brodeur: Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist is 22-9-5 with a 1.85 goals against average and five shutouts in 36 career regular season games against the Devils. Devils netminder Martin Brodeur is 43-26-15 with a 2.13 GAA and eight shutouts in 89 games played against the Rangers
Bottom line: The battle for Hudson River bragging rights features a Devils’ team flying high – eleven goals in the last two games – and a Rangers squad trying to piece together a hobbled back end. The Blueshirts, who could be without four of their top six defensemen Tuesday, play three games over the next four nights.