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A Different Feeling In This Year’s Rivalry

Martin Brodeur and the Devils have struggled against their cross-river rivals this season. Photo Credit: Lou Capozzola/Getty Images

The tables have turned on the Hudson River Rivalry.

 

Instead of the New Jersey Devils fighting for improved playoff position over a floundering New York Rangers team, the script is flipped. The Rangers enter tonight’s matchup in sixth place in the conference. The Devils, despite a 7-1-1 run, still sit last in the league.

It’s an odd turn of events in the storied rivalry of these cross-river teams. With the Devils success the past 13 seasons, these matchups always served as a way to improve draft position. The Rangers usually toiled outside of playoff position, looking to find a way into the top eight.

Despite the Devils’ lack of success, the players consider it a rivalry.

“It’s always a rivarly,” right wing David Clarkson said to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “I love playing in those games. It’s like a playoff game every time you play them. Those teams that are close to you, especially them, the Flyers and the Islanders, it’s always those type of games.”

“No matter what, it’s always a big game,” defenseman Colin White told Gulitti. “Every game is big for us. That’s the way we’re approaching every game, but there definitely is a rivalry there. It’s been there forever.”

For the Devils, this game won’t be the usual matchup against the Blueshirts. While there’s a near impossible chance of New Jersey making the playoffs, this is a pride game. The Rangers have already won three of the six matchups this season, outscoring the Devils, 9-2.

Martin Brodeur has struggled recently at Madison Square Garden. While he’s posted a 1.99 goals-against average, Brodeur is just 2-6-2 in his last 10 games at MSG.

The Devils don’t want to allow their rivals to win the season series. They also don’t need the Rangers taking two points and improving their playoff position. They also don’t want to be embarrassed at MSG.

Brodeur also cited the fans as fueling the rivalry.

“The players, we feel for it because of people that care about us and people that hate us,” Brodeur told Gulitti. “That’s mostly what a rivalry is. It’s mostly through the fans. The players, you’ll feel it when you do battle for something – the playoffs or a playoff spot or an important game. When that’s not there, I think we get up maybe a little more because of our fans, because the people care about it. That’s normal. That’s part of sports.”

We usually expect hard fought battles and playoff positioning out of these rivalry games. But tonight, with little on the line for the Devils, it’ll be a different feel. The Devils will be desperate to continue their strong play. The Rangers will look to improve their playoff position.

There’s not much on the line for New Jersey tonight. It’s been a while since the Devils haven’t had anything to play for against the Blueshirts.

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