By Jim Cerny
Although the Rangers are playing a difficult set of divisional back-to-back games on the road -- starting Thursday night in Philadelphia and concluding tonight in New Jersey -- head coach John Tortorella said it was never even a consideration in his mind that Henrik Lundqvist would not be the starting goaltender tonight vs. the Devils.
“I’m playing Hank against New Jersey,” said Tortorella at the morning skate Friday. “I don’t care if it’s four games in four nights, Hank’s playing against Jersey.”
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who beat the Devils on Oct. 24 at MSG, has won 19 of his 31 career decisions against New Jersey and has taken five of the other 12 career decisions to overtime. The reason for Tortorella’s certainty is based in Lundqvist’s terrific career numbers against the Devils. In 31 games vs. New Jersey, Lundqvist is 19-7-5 with a sterling 1.89 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. He also has notched four of his 25 career shutouts against the Devils.
Earlier this season, Lundqvist turned in a 27-save effort when the Rangers bested the Devils 3-1 at Madison Square Garden back on Oct. 24.
“I enjoy playing the Devils, it’s a great rivalry for us,” said Lundqvist. “I think they are always really intense, well-played games, and as a goaltender it’s easy to be ready for them.”
Usually a Rangers-Devils match-up creates a duel between Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur, two of the top goalies in the league. However tonight Brodeur will be unable to play due to a sore elbow -- an injury suffered in Wednesday’s victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
That means Lundqvist will instead face fellow Swedish netminder Johan Hedberg.
“It’s always a little special to play against Swedes,” said Lundqvist. “And as for the Devils, their record is not great, but we all know that they will play hard.
The Rangers enter play tonight with a 6-5-1 record, good for 13 points, seventh overall in the Eastern Conference. The struggling Devils are last in the East with a 4-9-1 mark and nine points.