Game Day Preview: Bruins at Rangers
Perhaps a few days of rest will be a good thing for the Bruins after losing three in a row out in California.
Following defeats against the Sharks, Ducks and Kings by a combined score of 9-3, the Bruins are looking for better execution and a more well-rounded effort from all four lines starting tonight against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The Original Six rivals both came from behind in their wins during the first two meetings of the season. The Black and Gold got a late surge the day after Thanksgiving to down the Blueshirts, while the Rangers scored two unanswered to down the B’s in the second meeting of the season back on January 11th at Madison Square Garden.
After being called up again from Providence, Frank Vatrano will likely be in the Bruins lineup tonight. His last game with Boston came on January 19th against the Montreal Canadiens.
Holding a three point lead over the Flyers and Red Wings — who are both fighting for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference — and trailing the Panthers (tomorrow’s opponent) and Lightning by three points in the Atlantic Division, it is make it or break it time for the Black and Gold during the final nine games of the 2015-16 regular season.
Gametime: 8:00 p.m.
TV/Radio: NBCSN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 39-26-8 (86 points), Rangers 41-24-8 (90 points)
Location: Madison Square Garden
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Lee Stempniak
Loui Eriksson-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes
Landon Ferraro-Noel Acciari-Frank Vatrano
Zdeno Chara-Kevan Miller
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles-Dennis Seidenberg
Rangers projected lines
Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello
J.T. Miller-Eric Staal-Kevin Hayes
Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Viktor Stalberg
Ryan McDonagh-Kevin Klein
Marc Staal-Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle-Dan Girardi
Matchup to watch: Tuukka Rask vs. Henrik Lundqvist
Poll any fan, player, media member or executive in the NHL on who they’d want starting between the pipes in a pivotal matchup. The names that would get several votes would be Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist.
Over his last five starts, Lundqvist (32-19-6, 2.41 GAA, .922 save percentage) has bailed out the Rangers on several occasions. During that span, his defense has allowed 40 or more shots on goal in three of those contests. If it weren’t for the performance(s) by the 2012 Vezina winner, the Blueshirts would be in a much different position than they are right now.
Like Lundqvist, Rask (28-20-7, 2.51 GAA, .918 save percentage) has had to bail the Bruins and their rotating blue-line out in several instances. Compared to Lundqvist, however, he hasn’t seen as much rubber over the last five starts only seeing more than 30 shots just once. That came when he made a season-high 47 saves against the Panthers a couple of weeks ago in South Florida.
With playoff positioning still up for grabs, the Rangers and Bruins wouldn’t want to have anyone else between the pipes.
Storyline to watch: Will Claude Julien unleash Frank Vatrano?
Since the trade deadline, Julien and his coaching staff have seen the top two lines carry the team offensively. Their secondary scoring, however, has dipped a little bit. That’s where Vatrano can come up and help the cause.
Prior to being reassigned to Providence, Vatrano was looking to regain his scoring touch. The East Longmeadow born winger was held scoreless in his last four games in Boston before the demotion. Well, it seems that Vatrano found his niche again as he sustained his goal per game pace in the AHL and sparked the P-Bruins to a 16-4-4 mark since making the trip back down I-95 south in the middle of January.
As Vatrano prepares for another stint in Boston, it’s time for Julien to see what the former UMass-Amherst product can bring to the table. He could provide the spark that the Bruins need on the third or fourth line.
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