The Rangers did a tremendous job at beating up a bad Islanders team, and now they face an even worse opponent in their neighbors to the west when they take on the Devils tonight in Newark. I've said this before, but it is part of the maturation process in sports to make sure you don't lay down against weaker opponents, and right now they don't come any weaker than the New Jersey Devils, who currently hold the league's worst record at 9-24-2, and went through a coaching change over the Christmas holiday (Nicely done Lou). The Rangers have won 19 of the last 27 against the Devils, they need to make it 20 of 28 tonight.
How bad are the Devils? Right now, by my math, they would finish the season with 47 points, which would be a worse point total than the 1982-83 team, which was their first year in New Jersey. They may finish the season within striking distance of futility records set when they were still the Kansas City Scouts.
Andrew Gross has two great pieces in the Record today, the first is on how Derek Stepan is learning to pace himself for the long NHL season, and he got some good advice from Captain Chris Drury:
"Obviously, he’s a rookie and he doesn’t want to be the first, or second, or third guy off," Drury recalled after Tuesday’s practice. "I remember as a rookie, 50, 60 games in, waking up in places and I didn’t know where I was. Then I got a second wind. I just reminded him it was a long year and he needs to pick his spots."
Frankly, the 23-year-old former Swedish Elite League MVP seems like an eHarmony response to Marian Gaborik's season-long personnel ad: talented right wing seeking compatible linemate for goals and assists and possible long-term on-ice relationship.
John Tortorella also mentions in that article how it may be time for Michael Del Zotto to see all the sights Hartford has to offer:
John Tortorella did not rule out sending Del Zotto, 20, to Connecticut (AHL) to get him some playing time. "We need him to be a more patient player," Tortorella said. "Instead of a 60-foot pass, make a 15-foot pass. He’s trying to do too much at the wrong times."
Del Zotto will not play tonight.
Here are the latest NHL power rankings from SBNation, brought to you by Joe Fortunato.
[Note by Jim Schmiedeberg, 12/29/10 12:59 PM EST ] UPDATE via dbmaven FanShot
Zipay on Twitter:
"Whale's Lee Baldwin has been assigned to ECHL Greenville, likely making room for NYR's Todd White"
And White cleared waivers (again), was not at optional practice skate this AM at the Pebble in Newark - making the above seem more likely. Appears that "Zuke" is going to stay - at least for a few games.
See you tonight in the game thread.