All the injuries and the standings do not diminish the anticipation and significance of this Rangers-Devils matchup on Saturday across the Hudson in Newark.
It only adds another layer to the rivalry game, in which the two teams will go head-to-head for the first time since their first-round playoff clash.
The first time that counts, anyway, after the Rangers dropped two preseason contests to the Devils.
The Rangers, who will be without Adam Fox and Filip Chytil for a fifth straight game, will fight to repair their pride that took a hit in the aftermath of their collapse against the Devils last spring — in addition to further securing their hold on first place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Devils, who will be without Nico Hischier for a ninth straight game and Timo Meier for a second time, are intent on reaffirming their dominance over the Rangers and working their way up from fourth place in the division.
“I think it definitely adds something,” Jimmy Vesey said of playing the Devils, who stormed back from an 0-2 series deficit to knock the Rangers out in seven games last season. “First real game against them since the playoffs. A team, going forward, that we might see again in the playoffs over the next few years. This is definitely a big game or a marquee game on the schedule.”
While the Rangers and Devils have been bit by the injury bug to start the season, there’s a chance that both clubs will get a star player back in the lineup just in time for this anticipated matchup.
Jack Hughes is considered a game-time decision for the Devils after the 2019 No. 1 overall pick missed the past five games with a shoulder injury.
The same can be said about the Rangers’ No. 1 goalie, Igor Shesterkin, who hasn’t been available the past four contests with a lingering issue.
Blueshirts head coach Peter Laviolette couldn’t confirm whether Shesterkin was good to go or not, saying that he was still waiting on a status report from the staff, but it appears the Russian netminder will at least be able to dress as backup to Jonathan Quick if he’s healthy enough.
“They’re a fast team, they play fast,” Laviolette said of the Devils. “I said it maybe from the exhibition game, we’re going to have to be ready to skate, ready to compete. Keep them in front of us. I thought the exhibition game, it was real early, 80-percent lineups. I thought that we did a good job inside of that game, we needed to generate a little bit more.
“Now we’re in the regular season. It’s go time. They’re in our division. They had a really good year last year. We’re going to need to be sharp. They’re high octane, put a lot of pucks at the net, they defend pretty well and they play with pace.”
The Rangers are expecting to see a desperate Devils team, especially considering the fact that New Jersey has lost four of its past six contests.
The Devils are coming off of their most complete win of the season, a 5-2 victory over the Penguins, which they are looking to build off.
It’s not as straightforward of a scouting report for the Devils on the Rangers, who are returning to game action after a five-day break.
Some rust is to be expected, but the Rangers were riding a 10-game point streak before the schedule pause.
The 2023-24 season may only be five-and-a-half-weeks old, but the scope of these Rangers-Devils games is always much wider than what meets the eye.
“We got to make sure we start off fast,” said Ryan Lindgren, who said he is good to go after getting drilled into the boards the last game. “The way we’ve been playing, we’ve been playing north with good speed. We got to make sure we keep doing that.
“They’re a fast team that likes to feed off odd-man rushes, so we got to be smart with the puck and just kind of pick up where we left off.”