Sleeping New Jersey Devils Hope To Wake Up Against Rangers

Doug GausepohlCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2010

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 05:  Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils prepares to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Prudential Center on February 5, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Think about driving to a destination that is far from home.  There are lulls during the drive; points where the very last thing you want to do is the only thing that is currently occupying you: driving. 

That's what a hockey season is: a long trip.  Filled with highs, lows, and inbetweens.  Some dull moments, sure.  Just as in a long car ride, there are certain games that are just a killer to sit and take in, but being a die-hard Devils fan and aspiring sports journalist, I know it's in my best interest to sit and continue to watch.

But then, some you-know-what starts to tailgate you while flashing his high-beams right into your rear-view mirror.  Or some inconsiderate mongrel decides to cut into your lane without a blinker, or cut you off without a turn signal.  It's happened to all of us.  And it sure wakes you up and grabs your attention, doesn't it?

Enter the New York Rangers.  Hockey's equivalent to scumbag drivers.

No introduction is needed for the rivalry between the Rangers and the Devils.  You know the names, you know the faces, and you know the storylines, even if you're a fringe fan that only pays attention when it's convenient. 

In case you haven't paid attention over the past two months or so, the Devils are 6-12-2 in their last twenty games.  Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't helped.  A rested Martin Brodeur hasn't helped.  Players such as David Clarkson returning from injury hasn't helped. 

But seeing that disgusting mix of red and blue could sure help out a little. 

One word can describe the Devils' play over the past two dozen games or so, and that word is uninspiring .  In the six games they did win, they gave you a lot of reasons to be optimistic.  But in the 14 they lost, they gave you little reason to even want to watch the next game.

It's hard to not get up for a Rangers-Devils game.  The close proximity of the arenas, the recent playoff history with Sean Avery and Martin Brodeur, along with the stadiums being packed with supporters of both teams creates an atmosphere that is impossible not to get sucked into.  It's a playoff-type atmosphere, for both the players and the fans. 

The Devils will be hitting the ice Wednesday night fresh off a team meeting where head coach Jacques Lemaire ripped into the team, and then left the room to allow the players to air out their own problems. They're also fresh off a 2-0 shutout to the worst team in the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers.

"It's a meeting we as a team should've had a while ago," forward Zach Parise told the Devils' official website.  Can't say I disagree with him.  This meeting should've happened earlier, but with the Olympic break creating a disturbance in the season, I can somewhat understand why it wasn't. 

I don't think conducting a meeting like this with a game or two left before a two-week break would've done much good, as usually a team that got the message from a negative meeting such as this will come out playing hard in the next game, trying to send a signal to their coach that they got the message. 

With 18 games left, and two crucial games with Pittsburgh coming up, along with the Devils biggest rival coming to the Rock Wednesday night, this may have been the perfect timing to fire the guys up.

So far in the 2009-2010 campaign, the Devils are 2-2 against the Rangers, defeating the Rangers at MSG twice by the scores of 4-2 and 1-0 in a shootout, and being defeated twice, once at home 3-2, and once at the Garden by the score of 3-1 in the most recent game.

The Rangers will be just as, if not more hungry than the Devils coming into this contest.  The Rangers currently find themselves three points out of a playoff spot, with one less game to play than the Boston Bruins, who currently hold the eighth playoff seed.  Every game from here on out is a must-win for the Rangers, which isn't necessarily the case for the Devils.

The dull part of this season-long trip is now over, and Jersey's Team is coming down the home stretch.  We just need to hope they don't fall asleep at the wheel and ruin what was turning into a special year early on. 

Hopefully the team across the Hudson will help wake them up.