Bruins readying for big Rangers challenge

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Bruins readying for big Rangers challenge

WILMINGTON, MA The Boston Bruins and New York Rangers should be looking to make an Eastern Conference statement right off the bat on Saturday night as they open the 48-game NHL regular season at TD Garden.

The Rangers have traditionally had Bostons number over the years, and Henrik Lundqvist is one of the Black and Golds longtime tormentors, so motivation and adrenaline shouldnt be a problem for the Bruins.

Its up to us to go out there and perform. Weve talked a lot about that and getting back our good habits, and we need to get that started off on the right foot against the Rangers, said Milan Lucic. They finished first in the Eastern Conference last year and theyre a team thats made a lot of strides in the last three or four years to become one of the elite teams in the NHL. I think its a good way to start because these are the ones that are easy to get up for. Youve just got to embrace the challenge and embrace the struggle and enjoy it.

It could be wildly unpredictable given the different conditioning levels players will be coming from and new additions to each teams lineup that may need some orientation time before theyre at maximum power. For the Bruins a rookie defenseman like Dougie Hamilton will be playing in the NHL for the first time, and will be paired with Dennis Seidenberg in a role that could be significant.

For the Rangers prototypical All-Star power forward Rick Nash is inserted into the Blueshirts lineup, and hell have to find a way to coexist with players like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards in a long-established chemistry formed under head coach John Tortorella.

With 17 of the last 21 games between the Bruins and Rangers getting decided by one goal, it could be one simple mistake that means the difference between winning and losing in this one. That means Lundqvist and Bs goaltender Tuukka Rask will need to be on point, and the Bruins need to be much better than they were in a Sloppy Joe Special effort in Tuesday nights scrimmage at TD Garden.

Getting off to a good start will be key.

As you well know a lot of teams got off to good starts last season, but through an 82-game schedule they couldnt sustain it, said Claude Julien. "But in a 48-game schedule they will be able to sustain it, so we cant afford slow starts and we cant afford slumps.

With two games against the Rangers within their first three of the 48-game regular season, the challenge is clearly there for the Bruins to get off to a good start.

Felger: Will October be a dance or a dud?

Felger: Will October be a dance or a dud?

For a Red Sox team that has been the best in baseball in September and had won 11 straight prior to last night, you have to admit: There are a lot of things that could go the other way with this team in the playoffs that wouldn't surprise you.

To wit:

-- Would it surprise you if David Price blew up again in the postseason? He has a 5.12 career postseason ERA and has never won a playoff start. Was last night a precursor? He looked like his old shaky October self with a chance to clinch the division in Yankee Stadium.

-- Would it surprise you if Clay Buchholz crapped his pants when it mattered most? This is your No. 3 starter, folks, or No. 4 at worst. He's getting the ball in the playoffs either way, and if I told you that two months ago you'd tell me the Sox are sunk. He looks good now, but we all know he is the ultimate tease.

-- Would it surprise you if John Farrell blows a game with a bone-headed decision from the bench? Of course not; he's been doing that for nearly four years. Yes, he did it all the way to a title in 2013, but the possibility remains very real. It's in the back of most everyone's mind.

-- Would it surprise you if Koji Uehara regresses and the eighth inning once again becomes a problem? Uehara certainly has the experience and has pitched well recently, but the fact is that it feels like his arm is attached by a noodle.

-- Would it surprise you if some of the Sox' youth shows its age? It shouldn't. Happens all the time. Would it surprise you if Craig Kimbrel can't find the plate in a big save situation? It shouldn't. He's shown glimpses of it all season and has never pitched past the division series in his career. Would it surprise you if Hanley Ramirez makes an important mistake at first? Or the Sox' hole at third becomes a factor? Nope and nope.

We could play this game all night.

Now, what do I think is going to happen? I think the Sox are going to pitch well, even Price, and the offense will remain a force. I have full faith in Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Rick Porcello and the lineup in general. There's a feeling on this team that's hard to ignore, likely inspired by Ortiz, and I think they'll keep it going in the postseason. I agree with those who say the Sox have the most talent in the American League, so that's a great place to start. I don't know if that means the ALCS, the World Series or a championship. I just think they'll continue to play well into October.

But all of that is just a feeling, just a prediction -- and you know what those are good for. The point is this: If it goes the other way for the Sox, I think we already have the reasons why.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN.

Isaiah Thomas talks about shooting with the Seattle Seahawks

Isaiah Thomas talks about shooting with the Seattle Seahawks

Isaiah Thomas tells John Wallach on Toucher & Rich the story of when he visited the Seahawks training facility to take on their free throw shooting champ Tyler Lockette, and the swag they gave him for coming.