Warm weather throughout the Tri-State area has created a bit of a playoff atmosphere when it comes to hockey.
That feeling will reach Prudential Center on Saturday night, as the New York Rangers visit the New Jersey Devils (5:00, MSG).
The Rangers (39-19-2) will try to solidify an already relatively comfortable playoff spot. They have earned at least a point in 9 of their 10 February games, including Thursday’s 2-1 shootout triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Ontario. The Rangers trailed 1-0 through 40 minutes, but JT Miller knotted things up in the third period when he tapped in a Kevin Hayes shot. Henrik Lundqvist, maker of 32 saves, held strong in the overtime period before stopping a Nazem Kadri shot in the third round of the tiebreaking competition. Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad tallied the Rangers’ shootout scores.
Meanwhile the Devils (25-25-10), seeking their first playoff berth since winning the Eastern Conference title in 2012, rank eight points behind the Islanders for the final wild card spot in the East. They haven’t helped their case recently, going 2-4-0 in their past six, including Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators in Newark. Travis Zajac cut a 2-0 deficit in half with a third period goal, but the Devils were unable to break Craig Anderson further, the goalie making 29 saves.
This will be the third meeting between the two crossriver rivals this season, though it will be the first in New Jersey. The Rangers took both meetings at Madison Square Garden, held over one week in December. The last one came on December 18, a 3-2 Rangers shootout win. Lundqvist and Corey Schneider earned the top stars of the night honors, stopping 29 and 25 shots, respectively. The Rangers erased two separate New Jersey leads, with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan providing third period goals. Hayes provided the deciding goal in the shootout, right before Lundqvist made a final stop on Damon Severson. The final meeting between the two will go down on March 21 in Newark.