Rangers visit Devils in first meeting

Tonight in about half an hour, the Rangers and Devils renew the Hudson rivalry in Newark. It’s the first meeting of four in a odd season if you go by the schedule. Both teams have played 49 games, and are first meeting with not much on the line. Neither are going to the playoffs.

On one of the most bitter ice cold days of the Winter, I’m sure many fans will brave the elements to see the Rangers and Devils play at The Prudential Center. Ha. Don’t expect a sellout. Those no longer happen. Not even for Rangers vs Islanders. They already finished their season series earlier this month.

Hasan said he’s skipping the game. Can you blame him? It’s not the most exciting hockey right now for fans of either side of the classic rivalry that really began in ’93-94. I’m not gonna rehash that due to it being the 25-Year Anniversary of the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup. Something they’ll honor in just over a week against Carolina on Feb. 8 at MSG. I’ll be there for it.

Currently, the Rangers are sixth in the Metro Division with 49 points and a 21-21-7 record. They’re four points up on the last place Devils, who enter with 45 points and a 19-23-7 record. They won their first game following the break by again defeating the Penguins. A team they own. The Rangers lost a tough one to the Flyers 1-0 the other day. They got shutout by mere mortal Anthony Stolarz (38 saves) despite outshooting them 25-7 the final two periods.

They’ll likely have two good offensive players back in the lineup at faceoff. Pavel Buchnevich will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for a fourth time this season. We’ll see how he responds to coach David Quinn criticizing his inconsistent play. He will again start on the fourth line with Boo Nieves and Cody McLeod, needing to earn his way up including power play duty where he excels.

If Mats Zuccarello can’t go, then there’s the likelihood that Buchnevich could find himself on the top line if Quinn believes he’s ready. That would reunite him with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. But if Zuccarello is back following the left foot infection, he will start on the top line. He practiced in full yesterday.

The Rangers will be without rookie Brett Howden for three to four weeks. The hexed rookie forward suffered a sprained knee in the loss on Tuesday night. He was showing signs of snapping out of it, nearly scoring on a good shift. Unfortunately, now he’ll be out a while.

If they do go with 12 forwards and 6 defensemen, figure Brendan Smith to sit out. I wish Quinn would keep Tony DeAngelo with Marc Staal. Instead, he’s gone back to Neal Pionk with Staal despite improvement from DeAngelo. Brady Skjei will likely pair with Adam McQuaid, leaving DeAngelo with Kevin Shattenkirk.

Henrik Lundqvist gets the start versus Keith Kinkaid. I guess the Devils don’t have anyone else they have faith in. I think Mackenzie Blackwood is still down in the AHL. I have no clue what’s going on with Cory Schneider.

The Devils placed top defenseman Sami Vatanen on the injured reserve due to a concussion. They recalled veteran Eric Gryba. Remember his hit in the preseason that resulted in a fight the next game? Maybe we’ll get a rematch between him and McLeod.

The Devils remain without last year’s Hart winner Taylor Hall. They’ve played okay thanks to Travis Zajac, Miles Wood and Blake Coleman stepping up in his absence. Pavel Zacha had a goal and assist in their victory versus the Penguins. He is still a work in progress in Year Three.

That’s pretty much it. There’s not much else to get pumped for. Two rivals battling for pride, or lottery position.

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 Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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