One of the most heated rivalries in sports will be on display when the New York Rangers battle the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals.
Game 1 begins at 8 p.m. EST on Monday night at Madison Square Garden and can be viewed on NBC Sports or a live stream online available here.
It will be the first time the two teams have met in the conference finals since Stephane Matteau propelled the Rangers to a Stanley Cup berth with a double overtime goal. Since then the two teams have rarely met in games of high magnitude, but that hasn't stopped the two from being at each other's throats every time they meet.
The two teams met six times in the regular season that was marked by 11 different fights, including a massive brawl at the start of a game on March 19. There's absolutely no love lost between the two teams, which adds a little extra pressure and motivation to come out of the series victorious.
I think it's going to be physical, Rangers captain Ryan Callahan told reporters. Both teams like to play that style. They've been chippy games every time we played them in the regular season. I don't see that changing.
At the same time you have to make sure you're disciplined, don't get too emotional out there. I'm sure you're not going to see guys fighting on an opening faceoff, but it's going to be intense.
In addition to the fierceness of the rivalry, one of the best aspects of the Rangers-Devils series is the battle between two of hockey's best goalies. The Devils' Martin Brodeur is wrapping up a Hall of Fame career, while Henrik Lundqvist is just beginning to emerge as the best in the NHL. Both play a major role in keeping their teams in the games -- both teams utilize more defensive-minded strategies -- and will ultimately determine what team advances.
There's enough pressure as is, so I don't think anything has to be added to it, but it's a great challenge for me to play against [Brodeur] and against [the Devils], Lundqvist told the New York Post. There are so many things that make this series special. Being in the conference final, No. 1, is a great feeling. Playing the Devils, that's a special feeling, absolutely,
Brodeur recently called Lundqvist the top goalie in the NHL right now and admitted to the Newark Star-Ledger that it's going to be pretty hard to match up with the Rangers goalie. Lundqvist owns a 23-6-5 head-to-head record against Brodeur, but the Devils netminder does have an edge in playoff experience.
Brodeur has guided the Devils to three Stanley Cup victories and has found creative ways to stymie opposing players as he's gotten older. He'll need to tap into all of those ways in order to knock off the Rangers, though he does have the advantage of being better rested than his Rangers counterpart.
The Devils knocked off the Philadelphia Flyers in five games, while it has taken the Rangers seven games in each of their first two playoff series. The Devils should be better rested heading into the series, though Rangers coach John Tortorella called the rest advantage a bunch of crap in a press conference with reporters on Monday.
Rangers left winger Ruslan Fedotenko agreed with Tortorella's comments.
If we had some more time off and were fresher, maybe it would help but maybe it would not, Fedotenko told the Post. It doesn't matter if we won our first two series 4-0, 4-0 or 4-3, 4-3.
Whether the Devils' extra rest will have any impact will be on full display for all to see on Monday night.