Devils’ Depth Key in Clash Between New Jersey And New York Rangers
By Kristin Tullo (@K_Tullo)
There will be anything but a shortage of talented, elite superstars tonight in Newark when the New York Rangers face off against the defending Eastern Conference Champion, New Jersey Devils, for the first time since game six of the Conference Finals last spring. The top lines from both sides of the Hudson will present equal threats to their opponent, but only one team has the edge when you look beyond the names of Gaborik, Kovalchuk, Nash and Elias.
In the final game of the regular season last year, the Devils added Stephen Gionta to their lineup, where he scored his first NHL goal after spending a majority of his career in the American Hockey League. The game winning goal to end the season was just a sign of what was coming from Gionta and his line-mates, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter. A line that surprised many by providing the depth it added to a team destined for the Stanley Cup Finals.
A strong campaign in the playoffs where they combined for four goals and collected five assists in the ECF, the line known as CBGB is now the Devils third line and enters tonight’s game with four goals and six assists in their last three games together.
Steve Bernier scored two goals including the game winner on Sunday at Nassau Coliseum in a 3-0 win over the Islanders and Ryan Carter is riding a three game point streak where he has one goal and three assists. Carter, who is only in his second season with the Devils, spoke to the media yesterday about how games against New York aren’t like others.
“I can anticipate (Tuesday’s) game being a little bit more emotion-filled than perhaps some of the ones we’ve played recently.”
On the Rangers side, they have not been as lucky when it comes to secondary scoring, as Brian Boyle, Jeff Halpern and Arron Asham, have been held off the score sheet completely so far this season. In an attempt to wake up their bottom six forwards, the Rangers shook up their team yesterday by acquiring Daroll Powe and Nick Palmieri from Minnesota, where they sent former Devil, Mike Rupp. They also swapped forwards with their AHL affiliate, Connecticut Whale, by sending Benn Ferriero down and bringing J.T Miller and Brandon Mashinter, acquired from San Jose on January 16th, to New York.
While it’s not usually your third line you look to to provide the scoring, the Rangers top line has been elusive as well, combining for only one goal and two assists in their last three, where the teams leading goal scorer, Marian Gaborik, has been pointless. Against a team rolling four lines with names like Jacob Josefson and Bobby Butler on tail end of their roster, the Rangers could be in trouble if they can’t find a goal scorer somewhere on their bench tonight.
With the Ranger’s looking for revenge after being knocked out of the postseason and the Devils trying to prove they are as good as the team that went to the Stanley Cup Final last season, this could be as close to a playoff game as we have seen since June. The Devils depth may be the key to two points tonight against a team that still looks for its own identity.
You can follow Kristin Tullo on Twitter @K_Tullo or e-mail her at KristinTullo@gmail.com