Devils @ Rangers
Madison Square Garden, 7:00 p.m. Thursday
Rangers record: 29-20-4
Devils record: 17-30-3
The Rangers hope to bounce back from Tuesday’s tough loss when they face off against another division rival, the New Jersey Devils, on Thursday night. New York holds a 3-0-0 record against the Devils this season and is 25 points ahead of New Jersey in the standings, but the Devils are not ready to roll over and die just yet.
For a team which is most likely out of playoff contention, the Devils have been on fire. They ushered in the second half of the season with a 7-1-1 record, ready for Thursday night’s game after a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. The desperately unlucky squad finally encountered a bit of good luck when the puck took a weird bounce in the Devils’ favor at 5:43 remaining in the game. Dainius Zubrus, who is riding a six-game point streak, was credited for the game-winning goal. Patrick Elias leads the Devils with 38 points, and he, Zubrus, and Brian Rolston (who was waived by the organization in December and subsequently recalled) make up one of the Devils’ most consistently effective lines recently.
Rookie right-winger Nick Palmieri has made a name for himself since being called up from the Devils’ AHL affiliate. He scored 4 goals in 11 games while playing on the top line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac, and he scored the first of the Devils’ two goals against the Senators on Tuesday. Martin Brodeur has also picked up his play, winning 6 out of his last 8 starts. Brodeur, however, did not practice with the team today, and it is unclear whether or not he’ll play against his favorite rivals tomorrow night.
The big story on the Rangers’ front is the return of Vinny Prospal, who will suit up for the Blueshirts for the first time this season. While many (including the coach) are undoubtedly hoping that Prospal will jumpstart the still-slumping Marian Gaborik, Prospal casually joked that he’s expecting it to be the other way around. Tortorella is unsure what his final lines will be tomorrow night, but Kris Newbury will conceivably be the odd forward out, as Prospal is moved onto a line with Gaborik and Derek Stepan.
Despite a slow start and the eventual loss, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan made triumphant returns to the lineup Tuesday night. In typical Ryan Callahan fashion, Callahan led the team with seven hits and notched the game-tying goal on a power play at the end of the second period. Dubinsky chipped in with the primary assist on Artem Anisimov’s goal and his all-around aggressive play. With Dubinsky, Callahan, and now Vinny Prospal, we’re looking at a slightly different team than what we’ve seen in the past few weeks. Certainly, the return of these important players will only impact the team for the better as the Rangers begin their playoff push.