NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Wednesday night. In the early game, the New York Rangers host the Boston Bruins at 8:00 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.
The Bruins are coming off a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Monday night. The victory was their second in three games. It appears as though they’re starting to get the ball rolling in the right direction despite being without some key pieces.
They’ve been forced to deal with a significant amount of injuries to key veterans, including David Krejci, David Backes and Brad Marchand. Starting goaltender Tuukka Rask and top center Patrice Bergeron have also missed games at different times in 2017-18.
“Guys are stepping up. They see their chance, they’re getting more ice time, getting more looks,” defenseman Zdeno Chara said after the win over the Wild, per the Boston Herald. “It’s great to see that guys are taking advantage of those chances, and they want to play and earn their ice time.”
Boston currently sits in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve only skated in 13 games this season (no team has played in less games).
After getting off to a sluggish start, the Rangers have put together some positive momentum, as they’ve won four in a row and five of their last six contests.
Alain Vigneault’s hot seat seems to have cooled down (at least a little bit) now that the team has strung together a few wins.
One of the big reasons New York has been successful over the last week or so, is because their power play has starting cashing in on their opportunities. On Monday night, they scored three power play goals against Columbus. In their last five contests, they’ve gone 7-for-19 on the power play.
“We all have to be shooters first, and I think that’s the first thing that we tell each other,” Kevin Shattenkirk said, per the New York Post.
“I’m getting very clear lanes because everyone is shielding over to Mika (Zibanejad) because he is such a threat. So it’s important that I’m chipping in and getting my shots through, because at that time they’re going to have to pick someone.”
Despite being between the pipes for all four of the victories, Henrik Lundqvist‘s individual numbers are still lacking. He’s given up three goals or more in three of the four wins. He has a 3.07 goals-against-average and a .900 save percentage.
In the late game, the San Jose Sharks host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 10:30 p.m. ET. To stream that game live, click here.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will kick off their three-game California road trip with a visit to the Shark Tank. It’s never easy for an Eastern Conference team to head out to the West Coast, but the Lightning are well equipped to do on-ice damage in any city.
The Bolts are off to an incredible 11-2-2 start. A lot of the credit will be given to forwards like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who have 25 and 23 points respectively in 15 games. But you can’t ignore the contributions they’ve received from Brayden Point, Vladislav Namestnikov, Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, Andrei Vasilevskiy and many others.
This team may have missed the playoffs last year, but they’re healthy and clearly on a mission. They’ve dropped just one decision in regulation since Oct. 9, and they’ve showed absolutely no signs of slowing down.
Tonight’s contest should provide us with an interesting special teams battle, as Tampa has the second ranked power play in the league, while the Sharks own the second best penalty killing unit.
San Jose has been a whole lot better on the kill this year than they were last year. To learn more about their remarkable improvement, check out this story by NBC Sports Bay Area‘s Marcus White.
The Sharks’ biggest problem is that they can’t find the back of the net with any kind of regularity. Their 36 goals rank 29th in NHL behind only Carolina and Edmonton.
On a positive note, they’ll come into this game having won four in a row. They scored just one goal in regulation during their 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim on Saturday night, but they scored four times against the Predators last Wednesday night.
Is the offense starting to come around? We’ll find out tonight.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.