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Kreider back as the Rangers take on the Boston Bruins; Lindberg a healthy scratch

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs bruins 11-27

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

After a heartbreaking loss on Saturday against the Washington Capitals, the Rangers (22-14-5) will look to secure a win to close their homestand when they take on the Boston Bruins (21-14-5) tonight at the Garden.

Both teams with almost identical records are looking to gain a foothold in their respective divisions. New York sits in second behind the Metropolitan, 18 points behind the Capitals, tied with the Islanders and just two points ahead of the Devils. Boston holds the first wild card spot, but they’re just four points out of second place.

This is the second of three matchups this season, and the first of three at MSG. Back on November 27th, the Bruins won in a heated contest, as Matt Beleskey broke two of Derek Stepan’s ribs on what looked to be a late hit into the boards. The Blueshirts were up 3-2 after a goal from JT Miller halfway through the third, but two late goals, including the game winner from David Krejci with 1:46 remaining.

The Bruins, like the Rangers, are a product of their inconsistencies. They’re currently going through a rough patch, winning just two of their last eight games while the Florida Panthers extend their division lead with their current 12 game win streak.

Brad Marchand returned to the lineup on Saturday after serving his three game suspension, and he’ll look to help bolster the team’s offensive attack as the Bruin’s leading scorer. Marchand has 15 goals, tied with Patrice Bergeron, as well as 11 assists. He also has a history as an instigator and aggressive player, running into Henrik Lundqvist last game. He’ll be a target of the Rangers more physical players.

Jimmy Hayes has been largely inconsistent this season, but he’s in the midst of one of his better runs. In the last five games he’s tallied four goals and an assist. Almost a Ranger after Florida GM offered Hayes and a draft pick for Cam Talbot, he’ll square off against his brother and look to hit the double digit mark in goals.

Tuukka Rask is having a bit of a down year compared to what he’s used to, posting a 2.51 GAA and a .915 save percentage. He’ll be in net in search of his 15th win of the season.

The Rangers need to start a win streak. They haven’t won consecutive games since November 21-23, and they’re just 6-11-3 in the last 20 games. It seemed like they’d be a guaranteed lock for the playoffs after winning nine straight games, but now the Penguins are just four points out of knocking them out of a playoff spot.

Antti Raanta missed yesterday’s practice with a tight back, but he’s expected to be healthy for tonight. However, it will be Henrik Lundqvist in between the pipes for the Rangers. After an incredible start to the season, the veteran netminder has seen his GAA balloon to 2.51 and his save percentage drop to .918. In his past nine starts, Lundqvist has posted a save percentage of over .900 just twice.

After missing the last two games with a cut on his hand, Chris Kreider will re-join the Rangers lineup, skating on a line with Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast. It’ll be interesting to see if the Boston native has an extra jump in his step after not playing for the last nine days. A 21 goal scorer last season, Kreider has just six goals and 12 assists this season. Before his injury, he had tallied three points (1-2-3) in the past five games, and six (2-4-6) in the past 10 games. The Rangers need him to keep producing and be a key contributor in the offense.

chris kreider skating 11-3

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

With Kreider back in the lineup, someone had to come out. And Alain Vigneault made the baffling decision of scratching Oscar Lindberg after the rookie scored his 11th goal of the season.

This decision makes no sense. While I’ve been defending Tanner Glass and his role as a fourth liner, he isn’t better than Oscar Lindberg, and keeping him in the lineup over the rookie doesn’t make the Rangers a better team. Jayson Megna has played two games and is already staying in the lineup, on the second line no less, over Lindberg. AV stated it was because of the chemistry developing on the fourth line, but this seems like the wrong decision on his part.

Kevin Hayes will suit up for the Rangers for the third consecutive game, looking to build off of his two point night against Washington. They were his first points since December 18th, and he tied the game at two with his first goal in 18 games. He didn’t pick up any points against Dallas, but played a big part in two of the goals. He’s my player to watch tonight.

Keith Yandle picked up an assist on Viktor Stalberg’s deflected goal on Saturday, giving him 20 assists and 22 points halfway through the season. He enters tonight’s game with a five game assist/point streak against the Bruins (5 A).

The Rangers and the Bruins will face off tonight at Madison Square Garden at 7 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

EXPECTED LINEUP

JT Miller-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Rick Nash-Derek Stepan-Jayson Megna

Chris Kreider-Kevin Hayes-Jesper Fast

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Viktor Stalberg

Ryan McDonagh-Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on January 11, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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