Bruins-Rangers preview: Night for fighting

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Bruins-Rangers preview: Night for fighting

The first reaction would be to say that revenge is on the menu for the Rangers Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Theyll get a chance to bump off a Bruins team that sent them into a two-game slide to start the season by thrashing them on the TD Garden ice during NHL opening night. But this is about self-respect and pride for the Rangers more than its about anything else. The Blueshirts led by the struggling trio of Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik will look to right the ship after a rough 0-2 start.

"It's not an individual thing," said Rangers coach John Tortorella. "As a group, we didn't have the fight level the past two games."

So the Bruins should be looking for that fight level to rise in a game nationally televised on the NBC Sports Network as one of their Wednesday Rivalry games. Mike Rupp had his face busted up in a tilt with Shawn Thornton last weekend, and theres little doubt hell come calling along with Arron Asham and other tough-minded Blueshirts players looking to show some fight.

But this will be more about playing a quality Eastern Conference team thats been off their game, and about the Bruins matching the Rags hunger and intensity after getting off to the best start Boston has had since 2001-02 when they jumped out to a 3-0 record. The defense and the goaltending has been stellar for the Bruins as one would expect for a Claude Julien-coached team, but the offense is still looking to get untracked both five-on-five and on a power play thats gone 0-for-9 on the season in two games.

Anybody who knows the Rangers and knows how they operate also knows theyre going to come out with their best game so far, Julien said when asked what to expect on Wednesday night. Desperation can do a lot of good things for people and teams. Weve been there before. I dont think its going to be an easy task, but were certainly going to be ready for it.

The puck drops at 7:30 pm and it should have the same kind of playoff-style atmosphere and quality as their first meeting of the season.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: The entire New York Rangers roster could use a Roberto Luongo-sized tire-pumping at this point after struggling out of the gate in their first two games. Henrik Lundqvist has been abysmal between the pipes, Ryan Callahan and Marc Staal are tied with a team-worst minus-3 rating through the first couple of games and Marian Gaborik has been shut out offensively while averaging nearly 18 minutes a game. John Tortorella told his team that this early stretch was going to test their mental fortitude and everybody will see that firsthand in a nationally televised game on NBC Sports Network.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: "The battle level and the plays are right up there to midseason (level). So you know, every game is going to be hard it's going to be tough battles and we need to be ready for everyone." Patrice Bergeron on Bostons mentality for each of the 48 battles theyll wage this season.

KEY MATCHUP: The Bruins power play has gone 0-for-9 in the first two games while showing improved puck movement and creativity with different personnel, and the Rangers PK is coming off two PP goals allowed in a 6-3 loss to the Penguins. Granted the Bs dont have the Pittsburgh personnel on the man advantage, but their top unit of Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci is noting to sneeze at. Something has got to give in this matchup of strengths and weakness, though many NHL power plays have looked out of sorts early in this unique 48-game season.

STAT TO WATCH: 31 That's the combined number of registered hits for Milan Lucic (14), Zdeno Chara (10) and Adam McQuaid (7) through the first two games of the season for Boston. Lucic is third in the NHL behind Minnesotas Cal Clutterbuck and Montreals Alexei Emelin.

INJURIES: Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is expected to miss the season and be placed on long term injured reserve. Dennis Seidenberg (lower body injury) missed Mondays game against Winnipeg and Brad Marchand was held out of practice on Tuesday. Both Marchand and Seidenberg have been deemed game-time decisions by Claude Julien.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: The 0.96 goals against average and .958 save percentage for Tuukka Rask have him off to exactly the kind of start he wanted to have in a personally pivotal season. He was the first goalie off for the Bruins at their optional Wednesday morning skate at Madison Square Garden and will get his third straight start in three games. For the Rangers, King Henrik Lundqvist is coming off being pulled from a game for the first time in 15 months, and is off to the most abysmal start of his All-Star career. The 4.75 GAA and .865 save percentage for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner reek of a goaltender that wasnt ready to start the season.

Monday, Dec. 5: Craig Cunningham's recovery

Monday, Dec. 5: Craig Cunningham's recovery

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while fully getting in the holiday spirit by getting the family Christmas tree this week.

*Very good and very sobering story about Craig Cunningham’s slow recovery, and his large support system with the AHL Roadrunners team he is captaining this season. It sounds like it might be a bit of a long road for him, so he and his family will need that support from those around him.

*Tyler Seguin has his shot back, and that’s great news for the Dallas Stars power play. So is that like Stella getting her groove back?

*A KHL player went into a sliding dab formation in order to celebrate a goal on the ice, and we salute him for that.

*The Maple Leafs are trying to fortify their backup goaltending situation after waiving Jhonas Enroth this week.

*Interesting Bob McKenzie piece about a young man that’s hoping to challenge conventional thinking in the hockey coaching ranks.

*TSN’s Scott Cullen takes a look at Winnipeg rookie Patrik Laine’s shooting skills as part of his “Statistically Speaking” column.

*For something completely different: the hits just keep on coming for Netflix as they’re going to double their TV series output over the next year.

Chara probable vs. Panthers, Beleskey misses morning skate

Chara probable vs. Panthers, Beleskey misses morning skate

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- There were both expected and unexpected absences from Bruins morning skate on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of tonight’s game at TD Garden against the Florida Panthers. Matt Beleskey was the expected absence after getting knocked out of Saturday’s game with a lower body injury caused by a Tyler Fedun check to his right leg, and Torey Krug was also missing from the ice after pulling workhorse duty over the last handful of games in the absence of Zdeno Chara.

Following practice Claude Julien confirmed that Chara was “probable” to return for tonight’s game vs. the Florida Panthers after missing the last six games, and that Krug is expected to play after succumbing to the same illness that felled Patrice Bergeron over the weekend. Beleskey was being checked by doctors on Monday, and it sounds like his absence might be a bit longer term than simply a “day-to-day” lower body injury. 

Noel Acciari took part in practice, and it appears they both could be closing in on a return to the lineup. Frank Vatrano also shot the puck around a bit at the very beginning of Monday’s skate, but came off the ice as the team began their preparations for tonight’s game. 

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. Florida based on the morning skate with Beleskey and Krug both absent:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Schaller-Krejci-Backes

Spooner-Nash-Czarnik

Blidh-Moore-Hayes/Acciari

Chara-Carlo

Morrow-McQuaid

K. Miller-C. Miller

Rask

Khudobin