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Game Thread: Rangers at Devils

Tank no, three in a row?

New Jersey Devils v New York Rangers Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Don’t look now, but the New York Rangers are gunning for their third-straight victory! With four games left to play this season, they’ll take on their cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils, in the second game of a back-to-back. Puck drop is 7:00 PM EST.

By beating both the St. Louis Blues on Friday night and the Philadelphia Flyers in an afternoon contest yesterday, the Blueshirts have flipped the proverbial script on their lost season after losing 12 of their first 14 games coming out of the trade deadline.

Of course, to the draft-savvy crowd hoping to pile up the losses given the team’s inability to qualify for the playoffs, this winning streak probably feels like a cruel April Fools’ joke. But the players aren’t laughing. Especially not Ryan Strome, who is inarguably the team’s hottest offensive player through this stretch of games.

Strome has four goals in his last five games, including the Rangers’ second goal in a 3-0 victory over the Flyers Sunday afternoon. He’s also tied with Pavel Buchnevich for the team lead in goals (8) and points (12) for the month of March.

”In my own head I had a lot of adversity at the start of the season I think - starting off with one goal in my first 20 games or something like that is tough,” Strome said yesterday afternoon. “Hockey is so much confidence - I never thought I’d be sitting at 18 at this point of the season. At the end of the day I think it’s a reward of the hard work, and playing the game the right way.”

Of Strome’s 18 goals this season, four have come in the three games he’s already played against New Jersey.

”He’s earned his role, first and foremost,” head coach David Quinn said of Strome. “He’s a smart player, and I’ve said this before: This is a guy that has had 50 points in this league. We knew we were getting a good player, a guy that was capable of contributing offensively. I just thinks he’s taken advantage of the opportunity, and he’s also earned more of an opportunity for himself.”

Seven points separate the currently 26th-ranked Rangers and the 29th ranked Devils coming into tonight’s matchup. Though the Rangers’ road record (13-21-5) could serve as something of an Achilles heel to the Devils’ home record (19-14-7) in terms of extending this winning streak that New York has begun on.

MacKenzie Blackwood (8-10-0 with a .916 SV%) is expected to get the start for New Jersey, who will also be without their leading scorer, Kyle Palmieri (27-23-50), who was diagnosed with a lower-body injury that will keep him out of the lineup this evening. 21-year-old Nathan Bastian skated in place of Palmieri during the Devils’ practice.

A Rangers’ loss tonight would keep the team three points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings (72 points) who have won five-straight games and are set to play the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night.

Please use this as your open thread for tonight’s game.