Rangers’ contentious Devils rivalry could get another Matt Rempe injection

The Rangers better be ready for a grudge match.

The Devils will definitely come with everything they’ve got.

The two adversaries will face off Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in their first meeting since their highly controversial March 11 battle.

Rangers center Matt Rempe exchanges words with Devils’ Kurtis MacDermid Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“We have to win. Division games are always, I think, a little more competitive,” Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette said after Tuesday’s practice. “There’s probably a little more tension in these games when you’re playing in your division more than anyone else.”

The majority of the vitriol in that game, which Rangers won 3-1, surrounded Matt Rempe.

The towering rookie forward hit Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler with a high elbow, and Rempe was subsequently ejected from the game and given a four-game suspension.

It also left Siegenthaler with a concussion.

Matt Rempe was ejected during the Rangers’ game against the Devils on February 22. Bill Kostroun

There was already tension between Rempe and the Devils during their Feb. 22 clash, which the Rangers won 5-1, due to a Rempe hit on forward Nathan Bastian. This hit also resulted in Rempe’s expulsion.

Devils enforcer Kurtis MacDermid at the March 11 meeting tried to fight Rempe for the hit against Bastian on February 22, but Rempe refused and then fanned the flames when he greeted the Devils bench as he left the ice after being ejected.

Bastian ripped Rempe after the March 11 match, saying he “lost a lot of respect” for Rempe and that Rempe “should answer the bell one way or another and be a man about it” .

Matt Rempe received a match penalty for his hit against Nathan Bastian in February. Bill Kostroun

Rempe, however, has been absent for the last three games, as Laviolette continues to rotate his roster ahead of the playoffs.

But in a game that has the potential to turn into a brawl, the Rangers could certainly use their heavyweight.

Rempe got first reps on the fourth line with Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow during Tuesday’s practice, although Will Cuylle also rotated with Rempe.

Laviolette did not specify whether Rempe would play on Wednesday.

Either way, the Rangers know they will have to match the energy and emotion of the Devils.

“Any time you play a local team, in a rivalry game, there’s going to be extra fuel,” defenseman Adam Fox told The Post on Tuesday. “We always want points, we always want to win games, and they are desperate too. They are still looking to make the playoffs. It’s always an intense match, especially at the end of the year, when points really count for the teams.

The Rangers just failed a similar test against another desperate division rival, the Penguins, in their lifeless and sloppy 5-2 loss on Monday.

Rangers lacked bite, emotion or physical presence in the defeat and were overwhelmed as a result.

They now enter a hyper-emotional battle, which will likely be extremely physical.

It would make sense to reinstate Rempe into the lineup for a game like that and help restore the team’s mood. But with or without him, the Rangers can’t relive what happened Monday.

Rangers’ Matt Rempe, right front, salutes as Devils’ Kurtis
MacDermid yells at him. P.A.

“I wish we were a little better (Monday) night,” Laviolette said. “We played a division match against Pittsburgh, the two points escaped us. It wasn’t our best. We worked today to try to resolve this issue in order to improve it. There’s nothing I can do about it now, we didn’t get those points. We will try to resolve that (Wednesday), check tomorrow, there are two points at stake.”

Four of the Rangers’ final seven regular season games will be against their division rivals, the Devils, Islanders (twice) and Flyers.

And all three of these teams are in similar positions as the Penguins, desperately trying to cling to their playoff hopes.

These kinds of challenges are exactly what the Rangers need at this stage of the season.

“When (Laviolette) talks to us about our habits, it’s not necessarily for games 75, 76, it’s for game 1 of the playoffs,” Fox said. “All of these upcoming games are playoff games for (opponents), they’re looking to get in. I think if we reach that intensity, it will be good for us to prepare for that. You don’t want to go through seven games and then look like the first game, it’s time to play the right way, so I think it’s important for us to adopt that mindset now.

New York Post

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