Bruins-Rangers preview: Last dance

Bruins-Rangers preview: Last dance
February 12, 2013, 10:08 pm
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BOSTON -- The Bruins will see an entirely different New York Rangers team on Tuesday night.

The Bruins handled the Rangers at TD Garden in their season-opener and then pushed the Rangers to overtime before eventually falling in the first game that John Tortorella put Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards together as a super forward line. But there was a nagging feeling that the Bs hadnt seen the best that the Blueshirts had to offer as so many of their players looked rusty coming out of the lockout.

Now the Bruins feel like theyll get New York's best effort, and thats quite a bit from a talented crew that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

We realize that when we last saw the Rangers it was earlier in the season and now were a quarter of the way through the season, said Daniel Paille. It seems like theyre finding their game. Theyve played well in the last few games that Ive watched, and things are going to be a lot harder in this game than they were the last time we saw them.

Henrik Lundqvist looks like hes back on his goaltending game, and the Rangers have won three of their last four games while outscoring their opponents by a 14-7 margin during those four contests.

The Rangers have finally found some opportunistic scoring and solid play from some newly-formed bottom six lines after the departures of guys like Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedetenko. Part of that discovery was in the benching of Brian Boyle, who drew plenty of ire from Tortorella to begin this season after failing to fill in for some of the players that had exited New York.

Boston has built themselves a great cushion after their first 10 games, but there seems to be a strong resolve to refuse letting up in a shortened NHL schedule.

There are certain teams in our conference that really test your character, said Claude Julien. Both teams are pretty big teams, both teams like to work along the walls and both teams like the gritty game. Its about competing hard.

It certainly makes you a better team at the end of the night if youre ready to take that challenge the proper way.

Amazingly this will be the last time the Bruins and Rangers face each other in the regular season, but theres still a very nagging suspicion that Bostons road through the playoffs will wind through Madison Square Garden at some point.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Dougie Hamilton is scoreless in his last five games with a minus-2 rating and it was the 19-year-old rookies miscues in the defensive zone that led to Buffalos only goal on Sunday night. Hamilton has still been solid and largely mistake-free while averaging close to 19 minutes of ice time per game, but theres been a definite lull to his game over the last few weeks. Its to be expected, but Hamilton could use a nice, little breakout performance on the power play or in the offensive zone.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Were going to have to play strong against them. Theyre going to be a big, physical team that plays well defensively and theyre hard to score against. As long as we stay strong and compete to stay physical it should be a good game for us. Daniel Paille on what it will take to win the season series against the Rangers in their third meeting of the season.

KEY MATCHUP: It appears that the Bruins are going to place Tyler Seguin back with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the second line, and that will be the line the New York Rangers will be most concerned with based on Marchands team-leading six goals this season. That means Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh will get plenty of duty against the Bruins forward line, and could open up the Milan LucicDavid KrejciNathan Horton trio for a big game after being reunited once again. One thing the Bruins need to be wary of is the increased scoring the Rangers are getting from their bottom two forward lines now that theyve begun to gel.

STAT TO WATCH: 4 That's the number of goals surrendered in the third period by the Bruins in 10 games this season, and all four of those came in their only regulation loss to the Sabres.

INJURIES: New York defensemen Michael Sauer hasn't played since December 2011 for the Rangers due to a concussion,

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask is well-rested after playing in a game last Wednesday night against the Canadiens, and coming off one of his best games of the season when he shut out Montreal early while the Bruins were getting outplayed. Rask is 1-0-1 with a 2.51 goals against average and a .907 save percentage against the Blueshirts this season. After a slow start to the season when he didnt look ready to play, Lundqvist has allowed just one goal in his last two games while heating up at the same time as the Rangers skaters around him. King Henrik is close to respectability again with a 2.44 goals against average and a .911 save percentage.