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Devils could deal knockout blow at the Garden

Friday, 04.8.2011 / 4:23 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Devils could deal knockout blow at the Garden
Brodeur starts Saturday's 12:30 p.m. game at MSG. GETTY IMAGES
Since they’re not headed to the playoffs themselves, the Devils say they don’t care much about who’s in or out. They have two games left and just want to finish the year on a high note.

But Saturday features a matchup with the Rangers, whose postseason lives could hang in the balance.

For their final act of 2010-11, the Jersey Boys will have a chance to bring the curtain down on Broadway.

“That’s kind of exciting,” said Devils ironman Travis Zajac. “It’s a big game, no matter what. Every year you play them, no matter what position you’re in, it’s always a fun game to play in. It’s a great rivalry. To be able to beat a team that’s trying to get in the playoffs, that’s always sweeter, too.”

It’s a big game, no matter what. Every year you play them, no matter what position you’re in, it’s always a fun game to play in. It’s a great rivalry. - Travis Zajac
The eighth-place Rangers hold a two-point lead on the Hurricanes, who were set to visit Atlanta on Friday. The Thrashers thumped the Rangers, 3-0, at the Garden on Thursday.

NHL.com’s Corey Masisak breaks down the race for the final two spots in the East:

“New York needs to win Saturday against rival New Jersey, and the Rangers need Carolina to drop at least one point or for the Sabres to lose twice in regulation. The Rangers could also slide into the final spot if the Hurricanes win twice in the shootout and they beat the Devils in regulation or overtime.

Buffalo is going to own the tiebreaker against the Rangers, and Carolina will own the second tiebreaker against New York if both teams end up with the same number of non-shootout wins.”

Some of the Devils players were tight-lipped about what Saturday’s game means. Patrik Elias joked after practice that he’d answer questions about anything except the Rangers.

“It’ll be a pretty emotional game and a big game, obviously, for them,” Elias said. “Us, we’ve just got to go out and just play.”

Ilya Kovalchuk’s breakaway goal against Henrik Lundqvist was the lone tally in the last installment of the Battle of the Hudson. The Devils took a 1-0 decision at the Rock on Feb. 18.

“I just want to play well,” Kovalchuk said. “I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of Devils fans there. I don’t care by now who’s going to be in the playoffs and who’s going to win the Cup and what’s going to happen there. It doesn’t matter to me at all. I just want to finish the season strong and prepare myself for next year.”

Martin Brodeur will start. He made 25 saves for a 3-2 triumph in his last encounter with the Rangers on Feb. 3.

“I think it’s a fun matchup,” Brodeur said. “It became a fun matchup for us and our fans. We’ll definitely see what happens tonight with Carolina. We have to play, so might as well try to make it a good one.”

The Rangers have been here before. A year ago, a shootout loss in Philadelphia eliminated them from playoff contention on the final day of the regular season.

“It’s a situation that these guys put themselves [in] again back-to-back years on the last game of the year that could be big for them,” Brodeur said. “It’s their team, it’s what they do. We’re going to go out there and try to do what we’ve been doing, working hard and win a hockey game. A lot of attention will be drawn to it just because of the rivalry.”

Jacques Lemaire confirmed that the Devils will be without Dainius Zubrus, Colin White and Anton Volchenkov the rest of the way.

Zubrus left in the first period of Wednesday’s win over Toronto after he was boarded by Joey Crabb. White and Volchenkov have been hampered by lower body injuries suffered March 25 in Pittsburgh.

Lemaire has shrugged off questions about playing spoiler, but said it’s a positive if it gets his squad fired up to compete.

“Anything that can motivate you is good,” he said. “Anything. You need motivation. Mine is winning games as a coach. It’s getting guys to play so they play good, I’m proud of them, that’s it. One thing I know, we’re not in.”

The Devils close out the season Sunday against Boston at Prudential Center. Game time is 3 p.m.

Notes
Friday’s practice was the last of the season. To make it interesting, Brodeur and David Clarkson put bragging rights on the line in a shootout contest.

Brodeur beat him, stopping two of three.

“I do have the bragging rights all summer, so he’s going to get a lot of texts this summer from me,” he said.

Was Brodeur really surprised to have won?

“I picked an easy guy,” he joked. “It was best out of three for shootouts. He scored the first one, too, so I had to stop back-to-back, under the gun.”

Clarkson had his own take on how it played out.

“The first one, I don’t know if you heard, but it went bar and in, and he tried to say it didn’t go in,” he said. “The next two I missed.”

Had he won, Clarkson was ready to remind Brodeur for a while.

“I planned on sending a text that would go out every day at the same time,” he explained.

Better luck next year, Clarky.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
K. Palmieri 82 30 27 3 57
A. Henrique 80 30 20 10 50
T. Zajac 74 14 28 3 42
M. Cammalleri 42 14 24 15 38
D. Severson 72 1 20 -8 21
R. Boucher 39 8 11 -13 19
D. Schlemko 67 6 13 -22 19
J. Moore 73 4 15 -12 19
A. Larsson 82 3 15 15 18
J. Blandisi 41 5 12 -14 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 27 25 6 .924 2.15
K. Kinkaid 9 9 1 .904 2.81
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