In his first season as the coach of the New Jersey Devils, Peter DeBoer's exposure to the Devils' rivalry with the New York Rangers so far has been off the ice. Living in New Jersey, he's hearing regularly from both fan bases.
"You see how much passion there is on both sides. When you live in the community that's one of the first things that comes up when you run into hockey fans," DeBoer said during a Monday afternoon phone conversation. "You have a lot of passionate Devils fans but you also have passionate Rangers fans living here in New Jersey. It's really split."
Tonight, he gets his first taste of the rivalry behind the bench. It's the latest date for the first matchup between these rivals in a season that didn't include a lockout, and it comes at a good time for DeBoer's Devils. New Jersey has won four consecutive games and the Devils are 6-1-0 in their last seven. The Rangers are 5-1-0 in their last six road games, making this a great test for two teams fighting for position in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division.
It's also a good opportunity for the suddenly proficient Devils offense. New Jersey has 18 goals in its last four games as players grow comfortable in DeBoer's up-tempo system. They face a Rangers defense crushed by injuries. Steve Eminger is expected to miss eight weeks with a separated shoulder, joining Marc Staal and Mike Sauer on the sideline. Lately, the Devils have shown an ability to exploit opposing defenses and that could be an edge tonight.
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