newjerseydevils.com – The Devils' longest homestand of 2008-09 continues tonight when the New York Rangers make their final regular-season visit to Prudential Center (7 p.m., Versus, WFAN 660 AM).
New Jersey suffered a 3-1 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday, dropping the first of a five-game set on home ice. Patrick O'Sullivan scored on a penalty shot as the Kings took a 3-0 lead within a 4:14 window of the second period.
Scott Clemmensen made 25 saves, but lost his second straight start since winning seven in a row. Dainius Zubrus' 12th of the season was the lone goal for the Devils, who have stumbled in back-to-back defeats at Newark.
"People can sit and sift through all the losses and how we lost or back-to-back or home or away or whatever," said Devils' center John Madden. "To me and to this team, a loss is a loss, whether it's on the road or at home. Our record should be better at home, we should play better at home. We haven't been, and that's been an issue lately."
Zach Parise had an eight-game point streak snapped Saturday, but remains among the NHL's leaders with 30 goals and 61 points. Patrik Elias, meanwhile, has four assists in his last three games and needs 13 points to match John MacLean for the club's all-time record.
New Jersey (33-17-3) holds a four-point lead over second-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic, and a six-point lead over the third-place Rangers.
The Devils have split four meetings this season with the Rangers but have won the past two, including a 4-2 win at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27 – the most recent meeting overall.
The Rangers, losers in four straight, delivered their worst defensive performance in nearly 16 years with Friday's 10-2 drubbing in Dallas.
Trailing by two entering the final period, the Rangers gave up six unanswered goals and allowed an opponent to reach double digits for the first time since a 10-4 defeat to Pittsburgh on April 9, 1993.
New York's 8-5 defeat at New Jersey on Dec. 12 followed a similar pattern.
The Rangers tied that contest at 5-all with 9:42 remaining, but the Devils responded 11 seconds later and scored twice more over the following 3 1/2 minutes.
New York has gone 6-6-2 since Jan. 3. to fall out of first place in the division. After going 0-3-1 in their last four games, the Rangers are closer to being out of the postseason entirely – five points in front of ninth-place Florida – than they are to the division lead.
With Henrik Lundqvist out with the flu, Stephen Valiquette made only his second start in the past month Friday and yielded all 10 goals on 39 shots. Lundqvist's status for Monday is not known, but he is 14-4-4 with a 1.87 goals-against average versus the Devils.
Neither goaltender has received much help lately from New York's offense, which has scored five times in the last four games and is averaging 1.82 goals over the last 11 contests. Nikolai Zherdev tallied the Rangers' only goals in the loss to Dallas.