NHL on NBC: Rangers and Bruins battle as beasts of the East

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When the Boston Bruins head into Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), they do so looking to catch up in the race for the Eastern Conference crown.

The Bruins come in with Tuukka Rask on the injured list after suffering an apparent leg injury in Saturday’s loss to the Islanders. Rask joins Rich Peverley (knee) and Nathan Horton (concussion) on the shelf. Compounding matters? The Bruins haven’t won two in a row since early January.

On Sunday, they’ll be hoping to serve notice they’re not quite out of the running for first in the East. (The Rangers lead the Bruins by 10 points)

With Tim Thomas leading the way in goal, Boston generally doesn’t have too many worries between the pipes. Keeping up on defense and scoring enough goals has been their bugaboo of late, however, as guys like Tyler Seguin, David Krejci (who both looked sharp beating New Jersey) and Patrice Bergeron could stand to let their presence be felt more on the score sheet. Same goes for Milan Lucic as well.

On defense, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg would be wise to get their Stanley Cup finals form back from last season, though the blueline received a boost on Saturday as Johnny Boychuk (concussion) rejoined the lineup after getting steamrolled by Ottawa’s Chris Neil last week.

The Rangers enter Sunday with injury worries of their own. Ryan Callahan missed last game against Tampa Bay (as did defenseman Michael Del Zotto) while Ruslan Fedotenko and Dan Girardi are banged up — that said, the quartet got a day off Saturday to rest in advance of the Bruins game. Formerly oft-injured forward Marian Gaborik is having a monstrous (and healthy) season, scoring 31 goals while leading all Rangers in points.

Even with a slew of injuries throughout the lineup, the Ranger can always rest easy knowing Henrik Lundqvist is in goal. He’s been one of, if not the, league’s best goalies this season and isn’t just in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy — he’s in there for the Hart as well. A showdown between Lundqvist and Thomas could mean goal scoring is kept to a minimum, but the game won’t lack in mind-blowing saves and skill in net.

Keeping it close: According to the Rangers, 15 of the last 19 meetings between the Rangers and Bruins have been decided by one goal, including six games that required extra time and five that went to the shootout, dating back to March 24, 2007. Considering that Lundqvist has made 22 straight starts against the Bruins, it’s no wonder every game has been close.