With their season drawing to a close the New Jersey Devils have assumed the role of spoiler. This is uncharted territory for a team that has made the playoffs every season since 1996, but the prospects of keeping their bitter rival, the New York Rangers, out of the playoffs should provide plenty of motivation for the 81st game of the season.
The Devils will be without the services of Anton Volchenkov, Colin White, Dainius Zubrus and Zach Parise. Parise returned to the lineup for one game, but the team has decided to play it safe and keep Parise off the ice since the playoffs are out of the picture. The trio of Volchenkov, White and Zubrus are all banged up, with Volchenkov and White suffering from lower body injuries, and Zubrus still feeling pain in his neck and shoulder after being checked into the divider during Wednesday’s game against Toronto.
Martin Brodeur will be between the pipes - as he usually is for any game against the Rangers – and you have to believe that he will be at his best if it means keeping the Rangers out of the playoffs. If this rivalry means anything, and it has been lacking the past few seasons, there is no doubt that the players for both clubs will be taking their game to another level this afternoon.
Most of the Devils players have downplayed the significance of knocking the Rangers out of the playoffs with a win today, but don’t be fooled. When a team has nothing left to play for other than to spoil the hopes of their rival, that is all the motivation that is needed.
The Rangers will be receiving a boost with the return of Chris Drury to the lineup, and it may actually be a boost to the Devils as well. With Drury taking the ice today, super-pest Sean Avery will be the player who is scratched. This bodes well for the Devils, as Avery has the ability to get under the skin of any player, and he has a special affinity for mixing it up with Martin Brodeur.
The key to the game for the Devils will be to play sound hockey defensively and frustrate the Rangers into making mental mistakes. The Rangers know how important this game is, and if the Devils can get in their heads early, it may be able to throw off the Blueshirts.
This is going to be a close game throughout, and will probably come down to the masked men between the pipes. For Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers, this is their first step in their quest for the Cup. For Martin Brodeur and the Devils this season, this game could be looked at as their one and only playoff game. It should be a good one at the Garden.
About the Author
Written by Matt Pellicane
I am currently pursuing a master's degree in Journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. I graduated from Quinnipiac in May 2010 with a bachelor's degree in print journalism. While at Quinnipiac, I covered various sporting events on campus for the online newspaper The Quad News. I was born and raised in Bridgewater, New Jersey and have been an avid sports fan all of my life. I am a fan of the New Jersey Devils, New York Giants, New York Yankees, and the Boston Celtics.