The New York Rangers were pushed to the brink of playoff elimination the last time the New Jersey Devils were in town.
New York can knock the defending Eastern Conference champs out of the playoff picture for good when these Atlantic Division rivals meet on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Trying to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since winning it all in 1994, the Rangers fell in six games to the Devils in the 2012 East finals. New Jersey took two of three on the road in that series, including a 3-2 Game 5 victory in its last game at MSG.
New York (23-17-4) can now exact a little bit of revenge on Sunday, as a win will eliminate the Devils (17-17-10) from postseason contention for just the second time since 1996.
The Rangers, though, are more concerned about punching their own playoff ticket. New York is three points behind the seventh-place New York Islanders and one in front of ninth-place Winnipeg with a game in hand on both.
"There are no easy games here," coach John Tortorella said Saturday, a day after an 8-4 victory at Buffalo. "
we've got a game coming up 3 o'clock tomorrow against a Jersey team fighting just like we are."
The Devils, though, are in a more precarious position, needed to win their final four games just to have a chance of making the postseason.
"We're working hard. We're trying to change something,' goalie Martin Brodeur said after New Jersey won its second straight following a 10-game skid, 6-2 over the Panthers on Saturday. "We don't know if we'll be able to because it's not up to us. Our chances are really low, even if win all of our games. We're happy that we're still going to play for something tomorrow."
Brodeur will face a Rangers club that's scored 14 goals over the last two games - its most since netting the same amount on Jan. 17 and 19, 2010.
"We haven't changed anything in our game some guys have made plays" Tortorella said.
Brad Richards hopes he keeps making plays for the Rangers after scoring four times in the last two games, once in Thursday's 6-1 victory over the Panthers and his first career hat trick on Friday.
"I don't even really want to talk about it,' said the veteran center, who has just 10 goals all season. "I don't want to jinx it. It's just, if it's back now, it's a great time to have it.'
The Devils have star forward Ilya Kovalchuk back, but it might be too late. After missing 11 games with a right shoulder injury, Kovalchuk logged a team-high 22:43 of ice time on Saturday as New Jersey had a season high in goals.
"After the first five minutes I got a couple of hits and I felt more comfortable," said Kovalchuk, who was held off the scoresheet.
Opposing teams haven't felt that way at MSG this month, with the Rangers winning all four by a combined 18-6 margin for their longest surge at home since a six-game stretch from Feb. 19-March 13, 2012.
Henrik Lundqvist has been in net in each of the Rangers' April home games, turning aside 109 of 115 shots. After making 19 saves in a 3-1 loss to New Jersey on Feb. 5, Lundqvist stopped 29 shots as New York ended a four-game skid in this series including the postseason with a 3-2 win on March 19.
The Associated Press News Service
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