NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the New York Rangers host the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
The Rangers have rebounded from their 3-7-0 start, but they’re far from out of the woods. They have found the back of the net just three times in their last three games and rank near the bottom of the league with an average of just 2.1 goals per game.
They need to get Rick Nash (concussion) back, and there’s a decent chance of that happening tonight.
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The Rangers might also catch a break by avoiding Tuukka Rask, who has been one of the NHL’s top goaltenders this season. Although nothing has been confirmed, Rask played in Carolina on Monday and the Bruins will face the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, so it wouldn’t be surprising if backup Chad Johnson picked up a rare start to avoid wearing out Rask.
Even if Nash returns and Rask warms the bench though, the Bruins will be a challenging opponent for the Rangers. For starters, Boston has successfully killed off its last 32 penalties, including Hurricanes’ 5-on-3 opportunity last night. The Bruins have also won five of their last six games to put them just one point shy of the Atlantic Division lead.
Boston ranks 10th in the league in goals per game, but in that regard their edge over the Rangers comes from their offensive depth. David Krejci has been cold lately, but Loui Eriksson is riding a six-game point streak. Brad Marchand has struggled to get anything going offensively this season, but 22-year-old Reilly Smith’s sophomore season is off to a productive start. They’re a team that remains a threat even when some of their better players aren’t able to pull their weight.
Roughly a quarter of these two team’s seasons are in the books and it looks like the race for playoff spots will be as tight as ever. In the Atlantic Division, just eight points separates first and sixth place. In the Metropolitan Division, the gap between first and sixth is just seven points. They’ll need every edge they can get now to aide them in the battle for a postseason berth and seeding in April.