The Bruins will get their first look of the season at the New York Rangers, and they’re expecting much more of what they’ve seen over the last few years.
Alain Vigneault is the new head coach behind the Rangers bench and certainly there are a few new players who weren't there during last year’s second round playoff match.
The Blueshirts will also be welcoming back power forward Rick Nash. The big Rangers winger missed six weeks after a Brad Stuart elbow to the head, and has played only three games all season for New York.
“I'm excited. Kind of a controlled emotion. It's been a long six weeks, so I'm excited to get in there,” said Nash to reporters after skating on a line with Brian Boyle and Carl Hagelin during morning skate. “I think the first everything is going to take a while, whether it's a hit, a shot, a pass, making different plays. It was a long time off, so it's going to take some time.”
Clearly Nash will be a little rusty after not playing for so long, but the Bruins are preparing as if they’ll see the big, strong, heavy Rangers team they remembered from last spring.
“It’s a different coaching staff, but I’ve seen a team that’s playing a lot of the same way. They crash the net and they make low plays around the crease area,” said Claude Julien. “They still come hard on the fore-check and play a heavy game, and they still block a lot of shots. It’s a new coach, but they’re still a heavy, grinding team.”
Julien has done his homework as the Rags have played back-to-back grinding 1-0 hockey games, winning one against the Canadiens and losing to Ben Scrivens and the Los Angeles Kings.
One guy that looks very different from last year’s playoffs? Brad Richards.
The veteran center was a fourth-line player and a healthy scratch during the series against the Bruins, but now he’s got six points in his last six games and has been among New York’s leading scorers all season.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Brad Marchand finished with no shots on net, a minus-1 rating, and a waving, falling attempt at a back-check in the neutral zone that helped lead to Tuomo Ruutu’s first period goal against Carolina. He also had a couple of really weak plays along the boards in the latter moments of that game. It all added up to the Nose Face Killah being once again dropped to the fourth line to switch places with left wing Jordan Caron. Perhaps that was even part of the thinking in playing Caron over Thornton -- it gave Claude Julien an option if he wanted to send his agitating winger a message. It seemed that Marchand was about to climb out of his season-long slump with recent efforts, but he took a few steps back in the game versus the Hurricanes.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “We don’t want any lulls in our game. Sometimes you go out there with the same energy from one period to another, and the other team really steps up their game. You need to be able to match that when another team raises their intensity. I always tell the team ‘Let’s make sure they break before we do.' –Claude Julien, who wants to see more consistency from his team
KEY MATCHUP: It will be a homecoming of sorts for Rangers forward Benoit Pouliot. Pouliot was also a penalty-prone player for the Bruins, and can be lured into taking silly infractions that can hurt his hockey team. Given the Rangers middling penalty-kill unit and a Boston power play unit that’s been producing much more consistently as of late, it might be time for the Bruins to get Poo Poo Pouliot to cross over the line before heading to the box to feel shame. Pouliot also played against the Bruins last year as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
STAT TO WATCH: 600 – That's the number of career NHL games for Patrice Bergeron will have amassed when the puck drops at Madison Square Garden, quite an accomplishment for a player that nearly had things derailed by a horrible concussion back in 2007-08.
INJURIES: Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid (lower body) has missed four straight games, and is out after not making the road trip with the rest of his teammates.
Rangers forward Taylor Pyatt (concussion) is out for the Blueshirts.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Claude Julien said there “is some consideration” to Chad Johnson making the start versus the New York Rangers on Tuesday night after playing his best game of the season while making 34 saves against the Columbus Blue Jackets last week. The start would allow Johnson to get into a little bit of a groove, and also give him a start in the Madison Square Garden building where he made his NHL debut for the Rangers back on Dec. 30, 2009. Rask has played plenty of games against the Rangers with good success over the last few years -- remember when Tim Thomas didn’t like to play at dimly lit MSG? -- so one could also see the reasoning behind Rask getting the nod.
Henrik Lundqvist is 21-7-2 with a 1.67 goals against average and .943 save percentage along with six shutouts in 30 career games against Boston. That’s all that really needs to be said.