Upcoming games: @Devils, December 20, 7:00 p.m.; Islanders, December 22, 7:00 p.m.; Flyers, December 23, 7:00 p.m.
New Jersey Devils (37 points, 6th place Eastern Conference, 18-13-1)
The Rangers face their New Jersey foe for the first time this season. Patrick Elias became the Devils’ franchise all-time leader in goals scored (348) after scoring twice in the Devils’ 5-3 victory in Montreal on Saturday night. Elias leads the Devils this season in points with 29 and goals with 13. New Jersey is a on a four game win streak and has scored 19 goals over that span. Winger Zach Parise has eight points in his last five games while Ilya Kovalchuk has scored at least a point in each of his last four games. The Devils have the best penalty kill in the league with a 92.5% success rate. Though Martin Brodeur was stellar making 26 saves in the team’s latest victory over the Canadiens, the veteran has been shaky this season with an 8-8 record. Johan Hedberg has been a capable force in net with a 10-5-1 record and a .913% save percentage.
New York Islanders (26 points, 14th place Eastern Conference, 10-14-6)
The Islanders snapped a four game losing streak with a 2-1 shootout win in Minnesota against the Wild on Saturday. Al Montoya made 20 saves while Frans Nielsen scored the shootout winner. John Tavares and Matt Moulson are carrying the offensive load leading in points (25) and goals (15) respectively. Amongst Eastern Conference teams though, the Isles have the lowest “goals for” scoring just 69 in 30 games played. They’re 29th in the league overall in average goals scored per game. With Rick DiPietro on injured reserve (again) and Evgeni Nabokov dealing with a groin injury, Montoya has been the man in charge of the Isles shuffling crease. They are 5-3-2 in their last ten games. The Rangers are 1-1 against the Islanders this season. They won 4-2 on Long Island in November after Brad Richards scored a late third period clutch goal to snap a 2-2 tie.
Philadelphia Flyers (43 points, 1st place Eastern Conference, 20-8-3)
The Broad Street Bullies will return to Madison Square Garden with a chip on their shoulder. The Rangers shutout their Winter Classic rivals 2-0 on November 26. It was the second consecutive shutout the Blueshirts posted against the Flyers at home after a 7-0 thrashing last season. The first place Flyers were humbled by the Boston Bruins with a 6-0 loss on Saturday. The fellow stars of HBO’s 24/7 series have been battered with injuries of late. Their star defenseman and captain Chris Pronger will be out for the remainder of season and playoffs due to severe post-concussion symptoms. Top scorer Claude Giroux practiced this Sunday in a non-contact jersey for the first time since he suffered a concussion back on December 10. Rookie call-up Sean Couturier time on the top line was short lived as he suffered a head injury in the Bruins blowout on Saturday. Despite the injuries and young new faces called upon to step up, the Flyers are still dangerous. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is 4-1 in his last five games. Jaromir Jagr, Scott Hartnell and Daniel Briere have a knack for finding the back of the net.