First-place Rangers host rival Devils

The New York Rangers will continue their push for the Atlantic Division crown when they host the rival New Jersey Devils tonight at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers haven't won the Atlantic since their last Stanley Cup championship season in 1993-94, when New York also led the league in points. With 22 games left in their regular-season slate, the Blueshirts hold a seven-point lead over Pittsburgh for first place.

New York is also seven points ahead of Boston for the Eastern Conference lead and trails Vancouver by three points for the best record in the NHL.

Meanwhile, the Devils are currently tied with Ottawa for the sixth seed in the East and they're six points in front of eighth-seeded Winnipeg.

The Rangers have lost two of their three games against the Devils this season and New Jersey has taken four of six overall in the series. New York has also lost two of its last three home tilts versus the Devils. The Rangers are 11-4-2 against Atlantic Division opponents this season.

The Rangers halted a two-game slide and won for the second time in five games when they beat visiting Buffalo in overtime on Saturday. Ryan Callahan's 100th career goal came with 2:01 left in OT to lift New York to the 3-2 decision over the Sabres.

In the extra session, Ryan McDonagh received a pass from Callahan and skated the puck into the Buffalo zone up the middle. He passed it over to the top of the right circle where a skating Callahan kicked it to his stick, slid the puck under the stick of a defender then snapped a forehand past Ryan Miller.

"I thought we played good throughout the game," said Callahan. "Momentum shifted back and forth there, but I thought we stayed even-keeled and kept our heads together."

Carl Hagelin had a goal and an assist, while Marian Gaborik also scored for the Rangers, who are 10-3-2 over their last 15 games. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 18 shots and improved to 29-12-4 on the season.

New York is 20-7-2 as the host this year, while the Devils are 19-10-1 as the guest.

New Jersey went 0-2 on a two-game homestand this weekend, losing to Vancouver on Friday and dropping Sunday's 4-3 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Martin St. Louis posted a hat trick to lead the Bolts to yesterday's win at the Prudential Center.

Alexei Ponikarovsky, Petr Sykora and Zach Parise scored in the loss for the Devils, who had won four in a row before this two-game slide. Martin Brodeur allowed four goals on 16 shots for New Jersey.

"The way the standings are, the way we need to play, it's hard but you should be able to, regardless of who you're playing against, bring that intensity," Parise said. "Whether a team is first in the conference or you're playing (the Lightning), it's going to be a hard game. That's how equal everything is. We have to do a better job."

Tonight's test kicks off a four-game road trip for the Devils, who will also face the Bruins, Capitals and Islanders before returning home to face the Rangers again on March 6.