It may only be February, but Tuesday night marks the final regular season matchup between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. While the Bruins have experienced early success, the Rangers have struggled, making the last meeting between two of the NHL’s original six teams of that much more importance.
As always when these two foundational teams square off, one can expect a mixed blend of black-and-yellow with a touch of blue scattered amongst the sellout crowd at the TD Garden tonight.
After winning three straight games on the road at Toronto, Montreal and Buffalo, the Bruins will look to make it four in a row. After using Ryan Spooner, Lane MacDermid and Jamie Tardif as plugins from Providence, The Black and Gold welcomed back Shawn Thornton, Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille from injury during their 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night. Boston sits alone in first place in the Northeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference with 17 points, trailing only the New Jersey Devils with two games in hand
The Rangers, meanwhile have the look of a team that’s finally steered the train back on track after early season defensive struggles. New York will look to make it three straight after trouncing the Islanders (4-1) and Lightning (5-1) thanks to a spark provided from the returning Ryan Callahan (shoulder).
In their previous two meetings this season, each home team walked away with two points, but this Rangers team will look much improved from the team that opened up the season in Boston less than a month ago. For starters, their defensive unit is starting to show glimpses of the same shutdown play that made them arguably the best group in the NHL last season. However, if there’s one thing for hockey fans of the Empire State to be worried about, it’s a dismal 1-3-0 record away from the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden this season.
After the jump, lineups, storylines, linkage and tweets of interest
Gametime: 7:30 p.m.
Location: TD Garden
T.V./Radio: NESN/NBC Sports Network/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins (8-1-1, 17 points) Rangers (6-5-0, 12 points)
Bruins’ projected lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Chris Bourque-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dougie Hamilton-Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Rangers’ projected lines
Taylor Pyatt-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash
Ryan Callahan-Chris Kreider-JT Miller
Aaron Asham-Darroll Powe-Jeff Halpern
Dan Girardi-Marc Staal
Anton Stralman-Ryan McDonagh
Michael Del Zotto-Matt Gilroy
Bruins to watch
The last time Tuukka Rask squared off against the Rangers, Marian Gaborik torched the Finnish sensation to the tune of three goals, including the game-winning-goal in overtime to notch the hat trick. This time, in front of a home crowd, Rask is coming off a 1-0 shutout in Toronto and a 2-1 victory in Montreal. In eight career starts against the Rangers, Rask is 3-3-2 with a 2.00 goals against average and .932 save percentage, including one career shutout. Boston always brings the best out of Henrik Lundqvist (20-7-2, 1.63 GAA, .944 Sv%), which should result in a close, low scoring battle.
After the Bruins wrapped up their morning skate, many wondered why Claude Julien shuffled his lineup back to it’s original formation with Tyler Seguin flanking the wing next to Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the second line. After seeing a jump in Seguin’s game playing with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, one has to question the timing of Julien’s decision. Regardless of his line mates, Seguin needs to utilize his speed to get behind the athletic defensemen of the Rangers while Lucic and Co. pound the corners. On the special teams side, Seguin needs to stop over thinking where the puck needs to move next and just trust in his creative goal scoring skills and the issues that haunt the power play unit will disappear.
Rangers to watch
Although they may no longer log a normal allocated shift together, the trio of Gaborik, Rick Nash and Brad Richards continue to lead the Rangers offense. The trio has combined for 11 goals, 16 assists and a plus/minus rating of +16 through their first 11 games of the shortened season. For the Blueshirts to exit Causeway Street with two points, it’s going to be due in large part to the efforts of the talented trio, who faced the Bruins a total of 67 times, resulting in 19 goals, 30 assists, and an abysmal -12.
New York sent talented forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov to the Blue Jackets as part of the package for Nash during the offseason, but the Rangers are finding their roles are more difficult to replace than they initially thought. Brian Boyle is expected to be a healthy scratch once again, as Tortorella will lean heavily upon centers Derek Stepan and former Boston College standout Chris Kreider to log significant minutes Tuesday night. Although Kreider has yet to find the back of the net against his favorite childhood team, Stepan knows exactly what it takes to beat the Boston defense with six points in 10 career games played against the Bruins. Executing in other, less talked about areas such as face offs, playing the body and being responsible defensively is how the Bruins achieve success. Stepan could certainly be the lurking X-factor.
The fine folks from Days of Y’Orr reveal their unofficial 2013 NHL Valentines Day cards.
Jay Pandolfo officially sings a one-year, two-way contract with the Black and Gold via CSNNE Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty.
Kreider shares his Beanpot memories with Blueshirts United.
The SNY Rangers’ Blog notes that fans are getting their money’s worth when they watch Callahan perform.
Tweets of interest
Out of all NHL markets, Boston has the largest chapter in this year’s Professional Hockey Writers Association (via @thePHWA)
— PHWA (@ThePHWA) February 12, 2013
And Blue Seats Blogs’ own Kevin Baumer (@kevinbaumer) is spreading word on a good cause up north.
— Kevin Baumer (@kevinbaumer) February 12, 2013