Devils Gameday Preview: New York Rangers– 03/04/22

The New Jersey Devils are back in action, and fans should be in for a treat with this division matchup against the New York Rangers. The Devils are coming off of a 3-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday while their opponent won their last contest on Wednesday 5-3, after an explosive third period, scoring three unanswered against the St. Louis Blues. These rivalry games are always circled on the calendar, but a win would be especially special for Devils head coach Lindy Ruff. He is one win away from tying Paul Maurice’s 775 wins which is sixth on the NHL’s regular-season all-time wins list.

After practice yesterday, Jesper Bratt explained the excitement surrounding tonight’s game. “The rivalry is huge,” said Bratt. “It’s one of the most fun games to play during the season. It’s one of those games where you want to step up and be a big part of those victories.”

2 Storylines: New York Rangers (34-15-5)

Chris Kreider is a Top Goal Scorer in the League

The 6-foot-3 forward is in the middle of his best season in the NHL. His 35 goals rank third behind Leon Draisaitl and Auston Matthews. From Jan. 13 – 24, he notched nine goals in six games, and he was named the NHL’s first star of the week. The Massachusetts native is 30 years old and, for the first time in his career, is in the conversation for the Rocket Richard Trophy.

Related: Rangers’ Left Defense Not Cemented But Steadily Improving

“He’s one of the best I’ve seen tipping pucks,” Rangers defenseman Adam Fox said of his teammate. “Some goals, like the power play ones, when he’s tight to the post and able to chip it by the goalie, you don’t see many people do that. You see Crosby do it, and he’s one of the best players in the league” (from ‘A Master of the Goal Mouth Gets Better as He Goes The New York Times, 02/27/22).

Will the Rangers Seek Revenge for Sammy Blais Injury?

The last time these two teams met, the Rangers lost a key offseason acquisition in Sammy Blais. The 25-year-old collided with Devils defenseman P.K. Subban and the result was a season-ending torn ACL injury. The incident occurred approximately sixteen minutes into the third, and Subban did not receive a penalty. Some complained that Ryan Reaves should have gone after New Jersey’s defenseman, but with the score tied at two, Reaves felt it wasn’t the time for it. It was a smart move by the veteran as his team won the game in a shootout.

Sammy Blais, New York Rangers
Sammy Blais, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Tonight, fans might be looking for a Rangers player to step up and seek retribution for the Blais injury. These rivalry matchups are always intense, and the stage could easily be set for a fight. Subban has not been part of the starting lineup since Feb 13, and all eyes will be on him as he jumps over the boards for his first shift.

2 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (19-30-5)

Will the Devils Continue to Find Offense?

The Devils have not had a problem finding the back of the net recently and scored seven goals three times in February. Yesterday, they stuck with the same lineup they have used for the past couple of games, which indicates that Ty Smith will remain a healthy scratch. The team’s top-six forwards have performed well as of late, each earning at least a point in their last two games.

In their last seven meetings, the Devils have been unable to score more than three goals against their rivals. Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin is one of the best in the league, and it could be difficult for the Devils’ offensive to get the puck past him. Tonight will be a true test for the Devils’ young core against a team expected to make the postseason.

Tatar is Seeking His 400th Career Point

Tomas Tatar is playing for his fourth NHL club. As a free agent, he signed a two-year deal with the Devils and said that in addition to conversations with general manager Tom Fitzgerald, he was intrigued by the opportunity to play with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier.

“To have a duo like that in the organization, that’s just showing you the future is very bright,” Tatar said of his decision. “They’re both extremely talented, smart players, very skilled. That’s something I’m really looking forward to. I’ve played with centers like Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg, or Phil [Danault] for that matter, and I really enjoyed it. To have these two there, it’s going to be special for sure.”

Tomas Tatar, New Jersey Devils
Tomas Tatar, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Throughout the season, Tatar has played with both former first-overall picks and has recently performed well with Jesper Boqvist and Andreas Johnsson. He earned his 399th point against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday and is seeking number 400. Tatar has three assists in his last five games, and tonight he will look to reach another milestone in his career.

Players to Watch

New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes

The young Devils star is one point shy of 40, a career-best. His game has reached a new level since the NHL’s All-Star Weekend, scoring in every game except for one. The former first-overall pick is becoming a force on the ice, and the addition of Dawson Mercer on his wing has done wonders for both of their games.

New York Rangers: Adam Fox

Fox is the reigning Norris Trophy winner, and he has already surpassed last season’s numbers. If he holds pace, he will find himself as a finalist for a second consecutive year. He plays in all situations, and as much of a threat as he is offensively, he blocks shots and has a strong defensive game. Fans should look for him to have an impact on the scoresheet tonight as he has five points in his last five games.

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