Why Devils are renewing Rangers rivalry at perfect time

NEWARK -- Defenseman Ben Lovejoy and the rest of the Devils held a meet and greet with season ticket holders on Thursday night following a practice at the Prudential Center.  Lovejoy said the main topic of discussion was the Devils' next...

Why Devils are renewing Rangers rivalry at perfect time

NEWARK -- Defenseman Ben Lovejoy and the rest of the Devils held a meet and greet with season ticket holders on Thursday night following a practice at the Prudential Center. 

Lovejoy said the main topic of discussion was the Devils' next opponent.

"I think every third person said how important it was to beat the Rangers, to do well against the Rangers," Lovejoy said.

The Devils will play the Rangers at 5 p.m. on Saturday, when the teams will meet for the first time this season at the Prudential Center after two meetings at Madison Square Garden in December.

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The Rangers won both those meetings that fell during a seven-game losing streak for the Devils, and now the Devils are still fighting to stay alive in the playoff hunt while the Rangers are well ahead in the standings.

"We're a different team now than we were then," Lovejoy said. "We were at a low point in our season when we played them twice, and we want to come out and play our best hockey. We can't worry about what they're doing, what their record is, where they are in the standings. We need to come out and be at our best."

One of the key challenges for the Devils in slowing down the Rangers -- who outscored the Devils, 7-2, in the first two games -- will be controlling the puck in the neutral zone. The Rangers thrive off creating transition chances off turnovers there.

"When we have time and space, we want to be able to execute off the rush," coach John Hynes said. "But coming through the neutral zone when there's not, we don't want to be turning pucks over and feeding their transition."

With 22 games to go in the regular season, Devils goalie Cory Schneider said the team isn't looking too far ahead, knowing how important each game is to keep their now slim playoff hopes alive.

"We have two more to finish out the month," Schneider said. "So right now we're focusing Saturday, then Monday, to close that chapter. If we can get two points the next two games, starting with tomorrow, who knows. We're not talking about March, April yet. We're talking about having a big game against our rival."

Chris Ryan may be reached at cryan@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRyan_NJ. Find NJ.com Devils on Facebook.

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