Zdeno Chara

Five Q’s: Bruins-Rangers preview

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Can Boston’s defense get healthy?

It’s not clear when injured Bruins defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (lower body), Andrew Ference (foot) and Wade Redden (undisclosed) will be able to play. For Game 1, it appears Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, and recent AHL call-up Torey Krug will be in the lineup. In a related story, no d-man has been forced to play more minutes in the playoffs than Zdeno Chara (202:19). The Bruins blew a golden opportunity to get some much-needed rest when they couldn’t close out the Leafs in five games. It’s possible that could come back to haunt them.

Can the Bruins find some consistency?

They pushed their luck against Toronto, needing a miraculous comeback in the third period of Game 7, then overtime. Before then, B’s coach Claude Julien had lamented his team’s “Jekyll & Hyde” season. As everyone knows, Boston is tough to beat when it plays physical, in-your-face hockey. However, playing that way isn’t easy — you have to really want to pay the price. Perhaps the Bruins can build on their emotional victory over the Leafs. Maybe they just needed to be reminded how good the payoff felt. But if they don’t compete consistently against the Rangers, they’ll be in trouble.

Can Girardi, McDonagh handle the big B’s?

Chara isn’t the only defenseman who can expect to play big, tough minutes in this series. New York’s Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi will also be out there a lot. If the Bruins do compete like they can, they’ll be pounding the Rangers’ top duo every chance they get. “Boston does provide a different look with, I’ve got to say, four good lines,” Girardi said. “They like to play their fourth line a lot, and that line gets on the forecheck and creates momentum that way. I think all four of their lines are pretty dangerous, so it’s on everybody to make sure we shut it down no matter who we’re out there against, kind of like doing the same job, but on everyone.”

Can the Rangers’ big guns deliver?

Their biggest gun is Rick Nash, who led them in goal-scoring during the regular season, with 21. So far in the playoffs, all he’s managed is two assists. Now, that’s not to say he hasn’t come close. He leads the Rangers with 22 shots in the postseason, and he hit the post in Game 2 against the Capitals. “I think the offense will come,” he told Newsday. “I was getting a few chances [Monday], got a few chances [Sunday]. That’s my main goal, trying to help the team win.” Brad Richards, on the other hand, seems less likely to break out. The 33-year-old center with the big contract was demoted to the fourth line against Washington. He did play well at the end of the regular season though, finishing April with 16 points in 14 games.

Can Derick Brassard keep it up?

The 25-year-old center who was acquired from Columbus at the trade deadline had nine points in the first round. Without Brassard, along with linemate Mats Zuccarello, the Rangers might not be playing anymore. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Brassard told NHL.com. “I just feel like I don’t think as much on the ice here, I just play. The way we play the game and the way we manage the puck I think it fits really well with my style. They don’t make me try to play another game. Why I play in the NHL is because I make plays, and now not only is my confidence high, it’s the best I’ve felt in a long time.”

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”