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Before meeting in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils will finish up the regular season against one another to determine which team will have home ice in the postseason. The way their first seven meetings of the 2007-08 season have gone, however, home ice in the playoffs could be irrelevant.
The Rangers look to sweep the season series over the Atlantic Division rival for the first time in 14 years and clinch the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference as they visit the Devils on Sunday.
Going into the final game of the season, fourth-place New Jersey (45-29-7) has a one-point lead over fifth-place New York (42-27-12). The Rangers, who are making their third straight trip to the postseason, must beat the Devils in regulation to get the fourth seed.
"There are few meaningless games on an NHL schedule anymore," New York forward Brendan Shanahan said. "It goes down to the 82nd game."
While the winner of Sunday's game gets home ice in the first round, the Rangers have had little trouble against the Devils regardless of where they're playing.
New York has won the first seven meetings with New Jersey, including two shootout victories and one overtime win. The Rangers, who have outscored the Devils 9-4 in their three wins at the Prudential Center, haven't swept the season series over New Jersey since winning all six meetings in 1993-94, when they won the Stanley Cup.
New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been in net for each game against New Jersey this season, posting a 0.98 goals-against average and two shutouts.
"We still have a chance," Lundqvist said. "It's going to be fun on Sunday."
Lundqvist stopped 29 shots in Friday's 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Islanders, and is 3-1-1 with a 1.76 GAA and one shutout since March 27.
Jaromir Jagr has four goals and two assists in his last three games, and needs one goal for his 17th straight season with 25. Jagr has just one goal and one assist versus the Devils this season.
New Jersey, which will make its 11th straight trip to the playoffs, could have secured the fourth seed in the East its last game, but fell to Philadelphia 3-0 on Friday to end a three-game winning streak.
"Outside of our goaltender, we had a lot of bad players tonight," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "No sense of passion at all."
Martin Brodeur made 33 saves on Friday in his 40th consecutive start. Brodeur has been in goal for each game against the Rangers this season, compiling a 1.97 GAA in those outings, but has had little help from his offense.
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