Henrik Lundqvist

NHL on NBCSN: Rangers host red-hot Bruins on Rivalry Night

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the New York Rangers host the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden at 8:00 p.m. ET today. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

It wasn’t pretty during significant stretches of the 2014-15 season, but the Boston Bruins are looking like the Bruins team many expected to be one of the East’s top squads once again. The New York Rangers had their own issues before righting the ship this season, so tonight’s game stands as a nice gauge of where each franchise is as of early February.

Tuukka Rask stands out the most during Boston’s bombastic run.

The Finnish goalie is a big reason why Boston is 8-1-1 in its past 10 games. The 27-year-old has only allowed three goals once since Jan. 4. He finished last month with a brilliant .949 save percentage that strongly implies that he’s back to his Vezina form after some rare stumbles.

The Rangers really aren’t that far behind the Bruins, especially if you look back to early December.

New York is 18-5-0 in its past 23 contests, and while the Rangers are currently ranked third in the Metropolitan Division, they can take a slim lead if they win the two games they have in hand on the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Even after taking a puck to the throat, Henrik Lundqvist was game enough to help the Rangers beat the Florida Panthers on Monday. Both the Rangers and Bruins are currently on two-game winning streaks.

Milan Lucic is expected to shake off his flu-like symptoms and play, so Boston should be close to full strength. The Rangers hope to see Rick Nash & Co. stay sharp even against elite competition in the likes of Patrice Bergeron.

Boston took a Jan. 15 match between the two teams by a score of 3-0, so we’ll see if the Rangers get a little revenge or if the Bruins continue to strengthen their hold on a wildcard spot.

Video: Lundqvist uses head smash in unusual save

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With the Panthers down 4-3 midway through the third period, Florida forward Dave Bolland flicked the puck towards the net. It certainly wasn’t the most dangerous shot we have ever seen or the most difficult Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist faced tonight, but he deserves style points for the way he handled it:

Lundqvist turned aside 33 of 36 shots in a 6-3 victory over Florida. It was his 334th career win, which put him ahead of Nikolai Khabibulin and gave Lundqvist sole possession of 20th place on the NHL’s all-time list. Hall of Famer Gump Worsley is just two victories ahead of Lundqvist.

Goalie nods: Hutchinson likely for stumbling Jets in Calgary

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In the wake of three straight regulation losses for the Winnipeg Jets in which they surrendered 15 combined goals, it sounds like Michael Hutchinson will get the nod tonight in Calgary.

It’ll be Hutchinson’s third consecutive start. The 24-year-old rookie has been excellent overall this season, going 14-6-2 with a .927 save percentage. However, there was reason to wonder if Ondrej Pavelec might get the nod tonight against the Flames after Hutchinson surrendered five goals on 32 shots in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Dallas and four goals on 31 shots in Thursday’s 5-2 loss to Philly.

To be fair to Hutchinson, four of the five goals the Stars scored against him came on the power play.

Jonas Hiller will be in goal for Calgary.

Elsewhere…

Roberto Luongo versus Henrik Lundqvist as the struggling Panthers take on the Rangers.

Antti Niemi gets the call for streaking San Jose against the Oilers, who haven’t named a starter.

All of a sudden the playoffs seem possible for the Wild

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While the Minnesota Wild remain longish shots to make the playoffs, they sure didn’t hurt their postseason chances by sweeping a three-game trip to Western Canada — a trip that included regulation wins over Calgary and Vancouver, arguably the two most vulnerable teams currently in a playoff position.

Sunday against the Canucks, the Wild were outshot 37-20 but managed a 4-2 victory thanks in large part to the play of goalie Devan Dubnyk, who’s been outstanding since joining the team in a trade with Arizona on Jan. 14.

“Confidence is one thing and a lot of credit has to go to (Dubnyk),” said Wild coach Mike Yeo.

And some of the credit has to go to GM Chuck Fletcher, who got the 28-year-old from the Coyotes for a third-round draft pick.

Among the 31 NHL goalies that have played the most this season, Dubnyk ranks eighth in five-on-five save percentage, right between Henrik Lundqvist and Tuukka Rask. Which isn’t terrible company to keep.

Whether Fletcher waited too long to make a move is a fair question to ask. By the time Dubnyk was acquired, the Wild had dropped 12 of 14 and fallen eight points out of a playoff spot. Today, after winning five of seven, the deficit has been cut to five points.

To give themselves a good chance at playing in the postseason, the Wild will need to go in the neighborhood of 19-11-3 in their final 33 games.

Not easy. But certainly doable.

Minnesota opens a three-game home stand tomorrow against Chicago (on NBCSN).

PHT Morning Skate: Lundqvist shakes it off

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

James Neal faced the Pittsburgh Penguins as the Nashville Predators won 4-0 on Sunday, so this seems like a good time to take another look back at that big trade. (Puck Daddy)

Interesting angle here: the five best “unsung” backups to Martin Brodeur. Feel free to play Helmet while reading this. (The Hockey News)

Johnny Gaudreau: a “big man trapped in a small man’s body.” (NHL Numbers)

A look back at one of hockey’s original bad boys. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $20,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

It looks like Henrik Lundqvist is OK. Does this mean he can play tonight?

Watch NHL players’ Super Bowl picks with the benefit of hindsight. Did anyone predict a “crippling goal-line interception that a team would never live down?”