An overtime goal put the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup finals last spring, and sent the New York Rangers back home to regroup.
There isn't that much at stake this time at the Prudential Center, but the memory of that series is sure to further fuel the animosity between the bitter rivals Tuesday night.
New Jersey (4-1-3) got a goal from Adam Henrique 1:03 into overtime to beat top-seeded New York 3-2 in Game 6 of the conference finals on May 25, capping the series with a third straight win.
The Devils, however, fell short of matching the Rangers' four Stanley Cups, losing in six games to Los Angeles.
While the memory of ousting New York (4-4-0) from the playoffs provided some solace to fans, coach Peter DeBoer took a different tack.
"There was a lot of people that felt that was as nice for them as a Stanley Cup win because of who they were and the history of the two teams," he said while claiming to disagree with that sentiment. "I didn't appreciate what it was until I lived through it, and it was a great experience.
"You don't need any big motivational speeches when we're playing them," he added.
The Devils enter this meeting coming off Sunday's 3-0 road victory over the New York Islanders, doing all of the scoring in the final 3:54 to end a four-game slide.
The Rangers have won four of six, but seek consistency of their own after winning 3-2 at Tampa Bay on Saturday, two days after falling 3-0 at home to Pittsburgh.
"If you ask (Rangers coach John Tortorella), he's probably going to say the same things that I am that we're a work in progress," DeBoer said. "We're inching toward our vision of where we see our respective teams. I don't think either team is there yet."
Tortorella may agree since New York is allowing 2.75 goals per game after ranking third in the NHL last season with 2.22.
Henrik Lundqvist is expected to be back in net after being rested Saturday. He's 3-4-0 with a 2.79 goals-against average after going 39-18-5 with a 1.97 goals-against average last season while winning the Vezina Trophy.
He struggled in the last three games of the East finals, compiling a 3.35 GAA. He has a 1.55 GAA and two shutouts while winning eight of his last 12 regular-season starts against the Devils, usually facing Martin Brodeur.
Brodeur, rested Sunday, is also off to a slow start at 3-1-2 with a 2.75 GAA. The four-time Vezina winner had a 2.00 GAA against the Rangers in the conference finals, turning aside 33 shots in the decisive victory.
"I expect a tough game against the Devils," Lundqvist told the team's official website. "They're a good team, and the last time we played them was a special, special series."
"It's always fun to play against Marty and the Devils. I love those games, the rivalry, and the intensity in the building is always great. It's special for us, and for the fans, too."
That intensity may be on display early since four of the six regular-season meetings in 2011-12 included fisticuffs in the opening minutes, three touching off as soon as the puck dropped.
It'll certainly be new for Rick Nash, acquired in a blockbuster deal with Columbus in an effort to help the Rangers this season. He has just two goals so far, and no points in four career visits to New Jersey.
In another move geared towards the postseason, New York sent center Michael Rupp to Minnesota in exchange for center Darroll Powe and right wing Nick Palmieri on Monday.
The Rangers also recalled J.T. Miller, 19, from Connecticut of the AHL. The 15th overall pick in the 2011 draft had nine points in seven games while helping the United States win the gold medal at the World Junior Championships last month.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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