With the NHL's regular season in its final week, the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers have differing agendas heading into Tuesday night's clash at the Prudential Center.
While the Devils (42-28-9) zero in on clinching their first postseason berth since the 2011-12 season, the Rangers (34-36-9) play out the string, set to miss the playoffs for only the second time in 13 years.
"I think we're excited about it," Devils coach John Hynes said of a likely return to the playoffs next week. "But the big thing -- we've talked about it, too -- it's about our game. Whether we're up seven or three points (in the standings), you can't get too wrapped up in those situations."
Certainly, the Devils put all distractions aside during an impressive finish to the regular season. New Jersey is 5-0-1 in its last six games and 8-2-1 since March 10.
With three games left on the schedule, the Devils can clinch a playoff spot as early as Tuesday night depending on what they and the ninth-place Florida Panthers do in their respective games.
"We always say that every game is the most important game of the season," offered Devils rookie Nico Hischier, who scored his 19th goal in Sunday's 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. "It's not just me that wants it. Every single guy in here wants these wins and knows every game is two huge points."
During the weekend, the Devils admittedly were not at their best in beating two of the league's weaker teams -- the Islanders and the Canadiens -- yet they still took all four points.
Taylor Hall continued his push for Hart Trophy consideration by extending his point-scoring streak to eight games, finishing the weekend sweep with the game-winning short-handed goal late in the third period in Montreal.
"He's been our MVP all year long, and the best player in the league in my opinion," teammate Brian Boyle said of Hall, who has 37 goals and 89 points this season.