Preview: Devils Look to Play Spoilers vs. Rangers

Nico Hischier staring at competition
Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Writer’s Twitter: @ChrisMottHockey


The New Jersey Devils are playing their second game of a back-to-back against their rivals the New York Rangers. They’re coming off of a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues at The Rock, while the Rangers are coming off of a 6-5 victory in overtime against the Washington Capitals, where Mika Zibanejad scored 5 goals, including the game-winner in overtime.

The Devils are out of a playoff spot but have been playing some good hockey, for the most part, in recent weeks. They’re still way out of the playoff picture but are now tied with Buffalo in the standings after last night’s win over the Blues. The Rangers, though, are in the middle of a playoff race. They sit as the first team out of the playoffs, trailing the New York Islanders for the second wild-card spot by just two points with one game in hand.

What to Watch For

Mackenzie Blackwood vs Igor Shesterkin

This is the matchup fans have been waiting to see in action. As Devils fans, we have heard about and seen Shesterkin play well for the Rangers as a rookie, just like we have seen Blackwood dominate the net and steal games for the Devils. Tonight, fans and the league get to see the battle in action at Madison Square Garden. Not to put too much pressure on the two of them, but could this be the follow up to Brodeur vs Lundqvist? Only time will tell, but all indicators seem to point to both the Devils and Rangers having found their long-term future between the pipes.

Jack Hughes vs Kaapo Kakko

The rivalry has certainly gotten off to a slow start, as neither prospect is in the hunt for the Calder Trophy this year. But at least on the Devils’ side, watching Hughes skating ability, passing, and hockey IQ at the high speed he plays at has been impressive. Watch any interview of these two players about the meaning of playing against each other, and they will try to shift the conversation back to the game being about the Devils vs Rangers.

Make no mistake about it, though, both players know this is a personal rivalry ever since they both came into the draft last year wanting to be taken first overall. So do not be surprised to see a little extra jump in their strides tonight on the ice.

The Devils and Rangers at the peak potential of their rivalry in 2012

The Hudson River Rivalry

It’s slowly coming back, and the NHL needs it again. Many people predicted how with both the Devils and Rangers in the midst of a rebuild would lead to the two teams clashing against each other. The stakes have never been higher, though, in a Devils vs. Rangers game this season. The Rangers need every point they can get in their playoff race, while the Devils have been doing a great job playing spoiler, including beating teams such as the St. Louis Blues last night.

This game is going to have an edge to it, as the Rangers are gonna try and do everything they can to earn two points, while the Devils would love to be a potential reason the Rangers miss the playoffs. The rivalry is not full-blown back yet, but the storylines and personal rivalries are. Make no mistake, it will not be long until one of the most intense rivalries in the league is back at a very high level.

The game starts at 7pm ET and can be seen on MSG+ for the Devils broadcast and MSG for the Rangers broadcast. Below are the expected lineups for both teams for tonight’s contest. Buckle up, baby.

Devils’ Projected Lines

  • Wood – Hischier – Palmieri
  • Hughes – Zajac – Anderson
  • Bratt – Zacha – Gusev
  • Rooney – McLeod – Hayden
  • Mueller – Subban
  • Mermis – Severson
  • Claesson – Carrick
  • Blackwood
  • Schneider

Rangers’ Projected Lines

  • Giuseppe – Zibanejad – Buchnevich
  • Panarin – Strome – Fast
  • Howden – Chytil – Gauthier
  • Lemieux – McKegg – Kakko
  • Smith – Trouba
  • Lindgren – Fox
  • Staal – DeAngelo
  • Shesterkin
  • Lundqvist

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