With 44 career appearances against the Rangers, Colin White has seen more duty in the Battle of the Hudson than anyone else on the Devils' blueline.
Nevermind that it's early in the 2009-10 season: you can expect emotions and intensity to run high whenever the Devils and Rangers collide. They play the first of six regular-season meetings tonight at Prudential Center (7 p.m., VERSUS, WFAN 660 AM).
"It's still a huge rivalry," White said. "Obviously it's been built up over many years. It's a huge game with them just across the water, and you've got a lot of Devils and Rangers fans around."
The Devils lost, 5-2, to Philadelphia in Saturday's home opener, and want to avoid back-to-back divisional losses to start the year. The Rangers improved to 1-1-0 after taking their home opener against Ottawa on Saturday.
"I think we're ready," David Clarkson said. "It's a huge game and as a team, I think we know what we have to do. We don't want to get into, 'Oh, we have to do this or that,' but we have to play a certain way. If we go out and play that way, then we're going to be successful. That's all we have to think about is playing a full 60 minutes, playing as a team, and having some fun."
The Devils split the season series with New York last season, dropping the first two games by a combined score of 9-3 before storming back to win the next three. One of those victories was former Devil Scott Clemmensen's 27-save shutout in Newark on Feb. 9. New Jersey finished 2-1-0 versus the Rangers at home.
Both teams have added new faces. The Devils have filled out some openings with youth such as Niclas Bergfors and Matt Halischuk, while the Rangers dipped into the offseason's free agent pool to land Marian Gaborik.
Gaborik spent his first four seasons under Jacques Lemaire in Minnesota, and will be the man for the Devils to stop tonight. He has two goals and an assist in two games.
"He's a guy that gets five shots on net before the game starts," Lemaire said. "You can't give him room, you just can't. He has too much talent for that and you have to play him as tight as possible: no free ice."
Lemaire said Gaborik's shot release is tops in the NHL.
"It's all quickness," Lemaire said. "I think he's got a touch for offense. He's got that touch; he knows where to go and where the puck's going to go. He'll be cruising, but he knows what he's doing."
White's said he's ready for a battle.
"I've played a couple games against him, but you know about his speed and he's a great hockey player," he said. "I've also watched him a couple times here and there on TV, and he's really strong on his skates. Everyone talks about his speed, so it'll be interesting, that's for sure. It's always great games with us against the Rangers. Always tight-battling games, and I expect nothing different tonight."
Zach Parise led all Devils last season with four goals and seven assists for 11 points in six games against the Rangers. He matched a career high with four assists in New Jersey's thrilling 8-5 win over New York on Dec. 12.
After tonight, the Devils will head out for a three-game road trip with stops in Tampa Bay on Friday, Florida on Saturday, and Washington next Monday.
"Every game's important," White said. "We're looking for wins right now. That's what our focus is: one game. It's just come here and win. Whatever comes after that, comes after that. For now, our focus is on tonight's game."
Forward Ilkka Pikkarainen was told after Monday's morning skate he may make his NHL debut tonight. Pikkarainen, 28, was New Jersey's seventh choice, 218th overall, in the 2002 Entry Draft. He had spent the previous three seasons playing in Finland, and notched 24 goals and 13 assists in 54 games with HIFK Helsinki last season.
• Rod Pelley wore a visor at Monday's practice after his parents suggested he put it on permanently. He spoke to his father after Saturday's game, and the visor came up in conversation.
"He said, 'Look around the room; look at your leaders," Pelley said, recounting the discussion with his father. Captain Jamie Langenbrunner wears a visor, as do alternates Parise and Paul Martin. Patrik Elias, named as an alternate but currently out of the lineup with a groin injury, also wears a visor.
"My dad's like, 'What, are you waiting for something to happen first? Are you waiting for your eye to get sliced open?' I'm just being proactive," Pelley said.
Pelley wore a cage while playing collegiate hockey at Ohio State (CCHA), and wore a visor while at Lowell (AHL) last season.