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Rangers take on the Bruins at MSG; Nash recovering following “maintenance day”

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs Bruins 3-28

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

It’s an Original Six matchup at Madison Square Garden tonight as the Rangers (41-24-8) battle the Boston Bruins, with both teams looking to strengthen their positioning in the standings as the playoffs draw closer.

Both teams have had some rough stretches lately, making today’ game important as both teams are looking to get back on track. The Rangers are just 4-4-2 in their last 10 games following Monday’s win, but they’ve managed to hold onto second place in the Metropolitan Division; two points ahead of the Penguins and five points ahead of the Islanders.

The Bruins were just swept on their three game road trip, losing to the Sharks, Ducks and Kings and getting outscored 9-3 in those games. Boston is also in a pretty good position in their division, sitting in third place but just three points behind the Panthers and the Lightning.

The Rangers were much better defensively on Monday night, playing a lot better in front of Henrik Lundqvist. But the third period was still a disaster as Vigneault employed his park the bus strategy; sit back and try and hold onto the lead. The Panthers scored twice, once on the power play, and cut it to a one goal lead both time. It was nearly another late game disaster for New York, and it’s an area that needs drastic improvement.

This is the third and final matchup between the Rangers and the Bruins, with each team winning their respective home games. At Madison Square Garden on January 11, the Rangers rallied for a 2-1 victory despite trailing after the second period. Derick Brassard scored 35 seconds into the third period, Jesper Fast scored the game winner with 1:42 left in regulation, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 32 of 33 shots. That put the Rangers at 14-5-0 in their last 19 games against the Bruins at Madison Square Garden. Both games this season have been decided by a goal, which has occurred in 24 of the last 32 regular season games.

Goaltender Tuukka Rask did not practice yesterday, dealing with an illness. He did travel with the team to New York but the bruins made an emergency recall in the event that Rask is not available. If that’s the case, Jonas Gustavsson would get the start. Gustavsson is 11-6-1 this season with a .913 save percentage and a 2.61 GAA.

Brad Marchand has had a fantastic season for the Bruins, leading the team with a new career high 34 goals and sitting one point shy of his career high for points as well. The 5-foot-9 forward is regarded as one of the game’s great agitators, regularly getting under the skin of other players and having an impact on the game. Adding goal scoring to his arsenal makes him an even more dangerous player. Marchand hasn’t scored in five games, but will be looking to end that skid tonight.

In a contract year, Loui Eriksson is also enjoying a strong season, with his 54 points (27-27-54) good enough for second on the Bruins and the second highest total of his career. Bruins GM Don Sweeney said they decided to keep him at the deadline, potentially using him as their own rental rather than give up assets for someone else. And it’s worked, as Eriksson has been one of the team’s best offensive player. He’s pointless in the last two games, but had scored five points (3-2-5) in the three games prior to that.

Henrik Lundqvist was winless (0-2-2) in his first four starts in his return from injury but he backstopped the Rangers in their win over the Panthers, making 25 saves to pick up his 32nd win of the season. Lundqvist had been let down by his teammates in the game before that, and Monday’s win was a great example of a team game. Hank has been brilliant in his career against Boston, posting a 22-12-2 record in 36 appearances to go with six shutouts, a 1.95 GAA and a .934 save percentage.

Alain Vigneault gave Rick Nash the day off yesterday for general soreness after the game on Monday. Nash scored his first goal of 2016 in that game in his sixth game back from injury. Kevin Hayes took his spot during practice and Oscar Lindberg moved to where Hayes was, making it possible that Lindberg could come back in for Kevin Hayes.

Lindberg has been a healthy scratch in the last four games with all of the skaters healthy, essentially because of the fact that in AV’s eyes, there are no holes in the lineup. But Hayes has fallen out of favor with the Rangers head coach, skating for just 9:58 against the Panthers. Lindberg has had a solid rookie season, scoring 12 goals and 26 points so far. It looks like he could get a shot alongside Eric Staal, giving him a good opportunity to prove his worth in the lineup.

On that same line will be Chris Kreider, skating alongside Eric Staal for the first time this season. Vigneault is trying to find the right chemistry amongst his lines and said that he wanted to “take a look at what speed on the left side of Eric would do.” Kreider is just the type of winger that could work really well alongside the big and creative Eric Staal. He has not recorded a point in the last four games, but employing him as a third liner could open up the ice a bit and create matchup problems. Kreider has 16 goals and 34 points this season.

The Rangers and the Bruins will faceoff at Madison Square Garden at 8 PM. The game will be broadcasted on NBCSN.

EXPECTED LINES (Not Confirmed)

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast

JT Miller-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Eric Staal-Oscar Lindberg

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 March 23, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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