The New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers hold the top spots in the Atlantic Division. Lately, though, only one team has played like a potential division champion.
The Devils seek to extend their lead atop the Atlantic on Tuesday night when they face the rival Rangers at Continental Airlines Arena.
While New Jersey (27-14-4) has opened an eight-point lead atop the division with eight wins in 10 games, New York (23-19-4) had lost two straight and nine of 13 before a 3-1 victory over visiting Boston on Saturday.
Leading the way again for the Devils is Martin Brodeur, who tops the NHL with 27 wins and seven shutouts while ranking second with a 2.04 goals-against average.
Brodeur, an All-Star for the ninth time, was one second away from his eighth shutout Saturday before the New York Islanders converted off a scramble to force overtime.
The Devils, however, weren't shaken.
"We have the best goaltender in the world, so we were just thinking that we'd win in overtime or in the shootout," forward Scott Gomez said. "Just grab the back of your pants and move forward."
The Devils did that, as Patrik Elias created a turnover and Gomez scored with 80 seconds left in the extra period to lift New Jersey to its fifth win in six games, 2-1.
"That was all Patty. I just stood there," Gomez said. "He faked everybody, and slid it right up to me."
Since losing three straight in mid-December, the Devils have failed to register a point in only two games (11-2-2).
Although he was held without a point Saturday, right wing Brian Gionta has been New Jersey's most consistent producer of late, with five goals and three assists in his last seven games.
Gionta has also been very good against the Rangers, collecting eight goals and five assists in the last 11 meetings.
After allowing 11 goals in back-to-back losses to the Islanders and Ottawa, the Rangers were much better defensively in Saturday's victory.
Martin Straka snapped a second-period tie and Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves for New York, which has been one of the NHL's most streaky teams.
Before losing two of three, the Rangers had a four-game win streak that followed seven straight losses. That seven-game skid came after five consecutive wins, which came on the heels of a four-game slide.
Representing the Rangers at the All-Star game in Dallas will be left wing Brendan Shanahan, who has 24 goals and 46 points. Straka was also deserving with 24 goals and 55 points, but was left off the team.
Captain Jaromir Jagr won't make the trip to Dallas despite leading New York with 59 points. The nine-time All-Star has been slow to regain strength in his left shoulder following offseason surgery, and will instead use the week off to rehab the injury - as well as rest an aching hip - at the request of the Rangers.
"We talked about it that it would be better for me not to go," Jagr said.
Lundqvist likely will be in net for New York on Tuesday. He's won five straight against the Devils and is 5-0-1 with a 1.80 GAA in his career against them.
The Rangers have won three of four meetings with the Devils this season, including a 3-2 shootout victory at New Jersey on Jan. 2.
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