Game Preview: Rangers and Devils renew rivalry in a big game

Since 2012, you can count on one hand how many important games the Rangers and Devils played. The Battle of Hudson Rivalry has been lacking for a while due to the Devils missing the playoffs every season since hockey legend Martin Brodeur got the better of Henrik Lundqvist in a six-game Eastern Conference Final victory that avenged ‘94.

Tonight at least that changes. When the two teams meet for the third time at The Rock in Newark, there will be something at stake. Even though we’re not even at the halfway point yet, you have a ultra competitive Metro Division with the Devils two points up on the Rangers. They sit in second place with a 19-9-5 record with 43 points. Columbus is tied with them in points but have played two more games. First place Washington has 45 points but also have played two more games.

The Rangers enter in the top wildcard with 41 points. Two ahead of the Islanders. They enter play having won three in a row to come in at 19-12-3. Lundqvist has turned his year around after a poor start. He and Cory Schneider will go head to head unlike the last meeting when the Rangers outclassed the Devils at MSG by taking advantage of poor defense and backup Keith Kinkaid.

It should be a exciting game before the holidays. With New Jersey a pleasant surprise due to the youth movement featuring rookies Will Butcher, Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier, they’re proving they belong in the conversation. Every time they have a bad loss, they respond with a big win. With Schneider bouncing back and leading scorer Taylor Hall having a much better second year after coming over from Edmonton, the Devils can’t be taken lightly.

Kyle Palmieri is healthy and Marcus Johansson could be back. Mixed in is well respected veteran Brian Boyle, whose inspirational battle with leukemia has been unreal. He has scored eight goals and is coming off a three assist game in a home win over Anaheim. Enough can’t be said about #BoyleStrong.

The Devs have also gotten improved play from Pavel Zacha. He’s definitely showing more confidence since being reinserted. Stefan Noesen and Miles Wood Are also key contributors who can’t be forgotten about. Wood makes his living in front of the net. Noesen is a gritty forward who fits well with Boyle. Brian Gibbons has cooled since his hot start.

Confurmed: Johansson is in the Devils lineup.

For the Rangers, it’s a opportunity to tie the Devils in points if they prevail in regulation. They’ll look to ride the hot play of Lundqvist along with the surging Mats Zuccarello, who after a poor start leads the team in scoring again. This time, he’s got great chemistry with J.T. Miller on the third line. Rick Nash drives possession and plays well in all three zones. He only has nine goals despite leading the team in shots.

Michael Grabner enters with a team high 17 goals while playing on the second line with Kevin Hayes and gritty Jesper Fast. A strong match up unit.

Pavel Buchnevich has cooled off considerably. He gets chances every game and is a excellent offensive player. Maybe the second game back with Mika Zibanejad will be better for the cohesive top line with Chris Kreider.

David Desharnais continues to play well recording two assists on a pair of Paul Carey goals in a home win over the Ducks. Jimmy Vesey remains stuck on the fourth line. He has to make the most of his chances.

It should be a good one.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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