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MVP Gaborik leads the Rangers into New Jersey

Jan 31, 2012 - 4:04 PM
(Sports Network) - Fresh off an MVP performance in the All-Star Game, Marian Gaborik will lead the New York Rangers in their first game after the break as they visit the rival New Jersey Devils tonight at Prudential Center.

Gaborik notched the 16th hat trick in All-Star Game history Sunday in Ottawa, as he posted three goals and an assist to help lead Team Chara to a 12-9 triumph over Team Alfredsson at Scotiabank Place. Gaborik, who is leading New York with 25 goals, is the fifth Ranger to win All-Star Game MVP honors and the first since Wayne Gretzky in 1999.

Two of Gaborik's goals came in the first period against Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, but the sniper was quick to heap praise on his goaltender after the game.

"I was just fortunate to be lucky against him," Gaborik said. "I think he's one of the best, if not the best, goalie in the league, but I am glad I could get a couple of goals against him."

The Rangers head into tonight leading the Eastern Conference with 66 points -- two more than Boston -- and they're just one point behind Detroit for the most in the NHL. New York is also three points ahead of Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead.

New York won its last two games before the break and has taken four of its last seven overall. The Rangers entered the All-Star break with last Tuesday's 3-0 home win against Winnipeg, as Lundqvist stopped 22 shots to record his fifth shutout of the season.

Tonight marks the first of two straight on the road for the Blueshirts, who are 16-7-2 as the guest this season.

The Devils are currently locked in a three-way tie with Florida and Toronto for the seventh seed in the East. New Jersey did not enter the break on a high note, however, as the Devils lost their last three games to fall to 1-2-1 on a six-game homestand.

New Jersey was at least able to earn a point in its most recent contest, as it dropped last Tuesday's decision against Buffalo in a shootout.

The Devils, who will close their homestand against Montreal on Tuesday, are 12-9-2 as the host this year.

Tonight's tilt marks just the second of six scheduled meetings between the Devils and Rangers this year. New York posted a 4-1 victory at the Prudential Center on Dec. 20 and has won two straight and six of the last eight encounters in this series.

The Rangers have also claimed four of the last five matchups in Newark.