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NHL Predictions: New Jersey Devils vs New York Rangers

Vitek Vanecek trade

Welcome back to another edition of NHL Predictions. Tonight’s matchup features the second Hudson River Rivalry of the season. The last time the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers met was all the way back on November 18. The Rangers took that meeting 5-3 off of a late third-period goal from Jimmy Vesey.

The Devils (28-23-4), were last seen getting blown out by the Washington Capitals, 6-2. Meanwhile, the Rangers (37-16-3), are flying high on an eight-game win streak. For the Devils, a pivotal two points are on the line as they try and cling to playoff life. For the Rangers, it’s a chance to extend their win streak to nine games while also dealing a massive blow to their biggest rival’s playoff hopes.

NHL Predictions: New Jersey vs. New York

Three Keys to Victory for New Jersey

Burnt Bread(man)

Artemi Panarin continues to be a superstar in the league, worth every penny the Rangers paid for him. Through just 56 games he has already matched his career-high in goals (32), to go along with 43 assists. He is tied for fifth in the league in points (75) and has been on a torrid scoring pace over the Rangers win streak. Panarin has registered seven points in his last three games and 12 points in the last eight games. Against the Devils, he’s been a killer. In 18 games versus the Devils, Panarin has registered 22 points as a Ranger. The Devils have struggled to stop star players, i.e., Alex Ovechkin’s two-goal game the other night, and Panarin has made a habit of scoring against them. He scored two goals and amassed a whopping nine shots on goal in their matchup back in November. The hope is that the Devils change in defensive structure since the All-Star break will help negate some of Panarin’s scoring. However, there’s been quite a few breakdowns as of late so this is something to keep an eye out for.

The Game Of The Power Play

The Devils have lived and died by the power play much of the season, and as of late have been killed by it. The Rangers on the other hand continue to be one of the best in the league with the man advantage. Starting with the Devils, the once first-place power play in the league now sits at 14. They once again went 0/2 on the PP, and it’s begun to kill all positive momentum. After the Devils failed to score on their first PP of the game against Washington, they quickly conceded a goal and never found their way back. They’ve gone 2/28 on the PP this month and 5/59 since the start of the new year.

As for the Rangers, their PP hasn’t been as potent as it was earlier in the year, but still shows signs of life. They have gone 4/25 on the PP during their win streak, including a three-goal effort against the New York Islanders. On a grander scale, the Ranger’s PP has been lethal against the Devils in recent years. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, the Rangers have scored on 29% of their power plays. If this matchup is as chippy and physical as it usually is, then both power plays will be busy, something that most Devils fans won’t want to hear.

Need Hughes To Be Huge

It’s no secret that this has been a difficult season for Jack Hughes. He started the season on fire, legitimately looking like an early Hart contender. Unfortunately, he got whacked with the injury bug not once, but twice. Yet he has still found himself sitting second on the team in points with 50, in just 39 games. His point totals may not show it, but the eye test shows a player who is either still banged up, or just gripping the stick a little too tight. Luckily, a date with the Rangers is up next, a matchup he’s been good in. Over 17 career games versus them, Hughes has scored 17 points, including 10 points in the last six games. When the lights are their brightest in this rivalry, Jack has manufactured points and wins for the Devils. They need him now more than ever tonight, and it may take another multi-point effort to come away with a win.

Prediction Time

The Devils need to come out with as much desperation as they have all season. They were burned by silly mistakes and blown coverages against a much worse Capitals team the other night. The Rangers are a different animal. If the Devils give them an inch, they’ll take a mile, and make you collect the puck from the back of your net. As much as the Devils need this game, the Rangers are rolling. The building will be loud and hostile, and the Devils will need to be flawless to get a win.

Prediction: Rangers Win 4-3

Main Photo: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports


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