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2/6 -- Devils Game Preview

By: Brian Deakyne

New Jersey Devils (36-18-2) at New York Rangers (25-26-7)

Previous Meetings: The Devils and Rangers have faced off three times this season, with the road team skating away victorious every time. On October 22nd, in the second game of the season, the Rangers would overcome a 2-1 deficit to beat New Jersey 3-2 at the Prudential Center. Later that month, on October 22nd, the Devils would return the favor, overcoming a 2-0 disadvantage to defeat the Rangers 4-2 at The Garden. Later, on January 12th, in an epic battle between top-notch goaltenders, it was Martin Brodeur who prevailed, recording 51 saves and a shutout in the 1-0 shootout win.

How They've Fared: Devils: Last night, in his debut with New Jersey, Ilya Kovalchuk tallied two assists and quarterbacked a power play that led to the game-tying goal in a 4-3 come-from-behind win where the Devils scored three goals in the final 3:04 to get off a losing slide that saw them lost eight of their previous eleven games.

How They've Fared: Rangers: The New York Rangers aren't exactly playing how they would like to in early February. Losers in eight of their last nine, the Rangers have fallen under .500 (25-26-7), fourth in the Atlantic Division, but most importantly, 10th--and out of playoff position--in the Eastern Conference. If New York wants to return to the playoffs, winning will have to become a priority in the near future.

Who to Watch: Devils: There's no question who everyone at Madison Square Garden will be watching Saturday night: Ilya Kovalchuk. In his debut, Kovalchuk had two assists and was a vital part in the Devils comeback win. Tonight, there is more to be expected from him. He is expected to play with two natural scorers--Zach Parise and Travis Zajac--a move that will only benefit him. Look for him to take part on several scoring chances and possible net his first goal as a New Jersey Devil.

Who to Watch: Rangers: While almost everyone will be watching #17 in white, it would be wrong to forget #10 in blue: Marian Gaborik. With 34 goals, Gaborik is 4th in the NHL and has single-handedly carried the struggling Rangers offesnse all season. He will probably be sparked by the fact that he will be going against one of the best finishers in the game in Kovalchuk, and look for Gaborik to provide some offense of his own.

Bottom Line: In retrospect, the New York Rangers need this game much more than the Devils. The fact of the matter is they need wins now, and one against a high-quality opponent like New Jersey.


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