When the truncated season began in January, the two Rangers-Devils matchups in the final four games of the year loomed as potential battles for a high seed in the Eastern Conference.
Instead, the eighth-place Rangers, who were ousted from the playoffs last spring in New Jersey, have a chance to push the Devils into the offseason at the Garden Sunday afternoon.
Thanks to a 7-2-1 run, the Blueshirts have climbed onto the playoff ladder with 50 points, but the Devils (17-17-10, 44 points) who throttled the Florida Panthers, 6-2, Saturday, face elimination. Each club has four games remaining.
"We're definitely in a must-win situation," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "That'll be a man's game. They have the opportunity to close us out. I'm sure they'll relish that. We have to get off the bus and compete."
The teams have split the games in Newark: the Rangers beat the Devils, 3-2, on March 19; the Devils won, 3-1, on Feb. 5. The Rangers, who have scored 14 goals in the past two wins, over Florida and Buffalo, will start Henrik Lundqvist in goal; the Devils will go with Martin Brodeur. In the duels between Lundqvist and Brodeur in 35 career regular season games, Lundqvist is 23-7-5 with a 1.77 GAA, .933 save percentage and five shutouts.
Notes & quotes: Since the Rangers obtained Ryane Clowe from San Jose and Derick Brassard and Moore from Columbus at the trade deadline, the trio has compiled 20 points in nine games. Clowe has seven (3-4-7), Brassard is 3-6-9; Moore is 1-3-4. Brassard, Moore and the injured Derek Dorsett were acquired for Marian Gaborik, who is 3-4-7 in nine . . . The Rangers are 11-4-1 at home against the Devils since 2007-08.