New Jersey Devils (32-33-13) at New York Rangers (49-21-7), 7 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) – With a playoff berth and a division title already locked up, the New York Rangers will try to stay hot before the postseason when they host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
The Rangers have won two straight, picking up victories in both parts of a two-game trip to Winnipeg and Minnesota. Thursday’s 3-2 decision over the Wild allowed New York to officially clinch the Metropolitan Division title, giving the Blueshirts their first division crown since winning the Atlantic in 2012.
New York still has a chance to earn the top seed in the East and first place in the overall NHL standings. With 105 points, the Rangers are one ahead of Montreal for the conference lead and two behind Anaheim in the Presidents’ Trophy race.
The Rangers grabbed an early 2-0 lead on Thursday before allowing Minnesota to tie it up by the early part of the third period. However, J.T. Miller delivered the game-winner just 55 seconds after Thomas Vanek evened the score at 2-2.
Miller redirected a puck sent towards the net by Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh after the Wild were unable to clear the puck from their own zone.
Rick Nash and Dominic Moore also scored in the victory, while McDonagh had a pair of assists in support of Henrik Lundqvist’s 26 saves.
“(The division title) gives us confidence going forward,” McDonagh said. “It’s a good feeling.”
New York welcomed Martin St. Louis back after the veteran winger missed the previous eight games due to a lower-body injury.
Lundqvist, meanwhile, won his second straight start and is 2-1-0 since coming back from a vascular injury. New York’s No. 1 netminder was sidelined for 25 games before returning last Saturday against Boston. He is expected to start tonight and owns a 32-14-6 mark and a 1.88 goals against average in his career against the Devils.
New York has claimed four straight against New Jersey and the Rangers are 5-1-1 in the past seven road tests in this series.
The Devils, who will miss the playoffs for a third straight spring, halted a six-game slide with Friday’s 3-2 shootout win over visiting Montreal. New Jersey had been mired in an 0-4-2 drought, but Jacob Josefson helped end the skid by notching the winning goal in the second round of the shootout.
Josefson had New Jersey’s second chance and he snapped his shot into the left corner. After Keith Kinkaid stopped David Desharnais, Patrik Elias put the game away when he slipped in a forehand.
“They’re on top of the conference for a reason and we talked about what we needed to do to beat them,” said Elias.
Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau scored regulation goals for the Devils, while Kinkaid made 31 saves for the win.
Cory Schneider is expected to start in net for Jersey tonight and is 1-2-1 with a 1.84 GAA in his career versus the Rangers.
New Jersey also will face the Rangers in their next game when they host the Blueshirts on Tuesday in the season finale at Prudential Center. The Devils will then close the campaign with road tests against Tampa Bay and Florida.
Next up for the Rangers is Monday’s home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.