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.

Thursday, March 23: Sidney Crosby, junk dealer

Thursday, March 23: Sidney Crosby, junk dealer

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while having never said “break a leg” for good luck to fellow Stoneham, Mass., native Nancy Kerrigan on social media, or otherwise.

 *A brief video history of Sidney Crosby spearing, or otherwise targeting, opponents in the crotches prepared with care and thought by the Puck Daddy himself, Greg Wyshynski.

*Elliotte Friedman has his 30 thoughts for the week and a few of them centered around new Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.

*Could the NBA’s star-resting phenomenon reach into the NHL when it comes to getting in-season time off for the superstars?

*Give the Leafs credit because they picked up coach Mike Babcock when he made a rare screw-up against the Blue Jackets.

*Check out the sick USA/Russia skating kicks on Alex Ovechkin, who had them custom made for a charity event.

*Speaking of Ovechkin, could T.J. Oshie and not Ovechkin actually lead the Capitals in scoring this season?

*For something completely different: Hide the women and children, the Scorpions and Megadeath are going on a North American tour together.

 

Vatrano looking to snap slump for Bruins, who could really use him

Vatrano looking to snap slump for Bruins, who could really use him

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s been 11 games and counting without a goal for Bruins winger Frank Vatrano, but the sharp-shooter may be seeing the light at the end of the goal-scoring tunnel.

Vatrano had four shots on goal and a couple of Grade-A scoring chances in Tuesday night’s loss to the Senators and has a combined seven shots on net in the past two games after watching his shots and chances crater in the middle of the goal-scoring drought.

So the 23-year-old East Longmeadow, Mass., native takes heart that a slump-busting event is going to place sooner rather than later.

“Obviously it’s in the back of your head, but you can’t stress on it too much,” said Vatrano, who last scored back on Feb. 26 in a win over the Dallas Stars. “It’s nice to score goals, but the rest of my game needs to take over. That’s when the goals start coming. If I’m moving my feet, being first on the puck and being physical, being hard on it, then that’s when I’m going to get my chances.

“Sometimes it gets away from you, especially when you haven’t scored in a little bit. In the back of your head you think you need to change something, but for me I’m a hard-nosed player, playing hard up and down the wing. Last game I got a bunch of opportunities being hard on the puck, so hopefully I get more of those chances [against Tampa]. Every goal is important right now, so you need to make sure when you get those chances that you’re bearing down.”

One thing that Vatrano, and any number of Bruins players, could do to help the situation is get a little closer to the net and look for a hard-earned bounce or two rather than constantly trying to pick corners on the goalie. That’s something Bruce Cassidy wants to see out of his players as space on the ice gets more crowded and congested in these late season games, but he also wants Vatrano to keep using his best skill: a lightning-quick release and dangerous shot that’s designed to beat even the best goalies from the scoring areas.

“I thought his last game was good in terms of chances,” said Cassidy of Vatrano, who has 10 goals in the 39 games since returning from foot surgery. “When you stop getting chances as a goal-scorer that’s when the red flags really go up. But he needs to keep shooting. His release is usually what catches goalies off-guard, and [Craig] Anderson happened to stop a couple of them.

“He needs to keep getting to the dirty areas and get there even more. A lot of times it’s a greasy one that gets you going. But for him I just highly recommend he keep shooting. That’s what he is, and you want to keep playing to your strengths.”

The bottom line is this: Vatrano is among the most able B’s players when it comes to putting the puck in the net and the Bruins need a guy like that to step up so they’re not solely reliant on Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak goals for victories. Production from the third line has waned lately and the Bruins need it to return at crunch time with wins and points desperately needed.