Start Spreading the News: 8th Place Rangers Visit #1 Bruins
New York Rangers (6-5-0) at Boston Bruins (8-1-1)
The Bruins and Rangers face off for the third and final time of this short regular season tonight as the Blue Shirts visit a post-apocalyptic, soggy Beantown. I apologize for the lack of Buffalo coverage however I was unable to return to my home until Monday afternoon due to the apparent meteor that hit the city...well that is at least how this city was reacting...but I digress.
Before I jump into my regular preview there is some Bruins news that needs to be addressed.
The Bruins have signed, thirty-eight year old, Jay Pandolfo to a one year, two-way, $600,000/$350,000 contract. The veteran forward has two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils and spent last year with the New York Islanders. Look for the Bruins to use Pandolfo during practice and as a third line option when needed.
Andrew Ference turns thirty-four next month and his unrestricted free agency, available this summer, is a topic of interest. There is no question the Bruins should resign the veteran defenseman who brings guts and toughness to not only the blue line but is a leader in the locker room as well. Our favorite environmentalist is very invested in the city and has kids in the school system, no doubt he wants to stay and no doubt the Bruins can afford to give him a bit of a raise ($2.25 million in 2013). However, he is approaching his mid thirties and I don't think he'll see anything more than a three year deal, probably heavy on the front end.
Nathan Horton and Anton Khudobin are also looking for some reassurance. Regardless of whether Tim Thomas ever suits up in Uniondale, dumping his $5 million hit will help to cover probably a similar, and well deserved, tally for Horton. Khudobin's hit to the cap shouldnt be anything over $1-2 million. Khudobin is doing a great job but is going to be twenty-seven this spring and remember our favorite Zach Brown fan, Malcolm Subban, is waiting in the wings. Khudobin should be covered for a few years until Mac is ready. Definitely looking good for the Bruins between the pipes for the foreseeable future.
Tyler Seguin was absent from practice on Monday for a maintenance day but was back Tuesday, look for him to return to the first line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. 95-South got a little extra traffic Monday when the Bruins assigned Jamie Tardiff to Providence and Lane MacDermid was send down on a conditioning loan. Aaron Johnson was also send down on a conditioning loan, however the league informed the Bruins that they had already used their one conditioning loan and since Johnson was not injured they couldnt do the same with him.
Pandolfo practiced on the third line today, so we'll see if he gets to sub for Chris Bourque sometime soon. Otherwise, look for Horty back with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, Peverley back with Chris Kelly on the third and the Merlot line of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Danny Paille back together and looking good.
The Tampa Bay Lightning game has been rescheduled for Thursday, April, 25 at 7:30 pm. We'll see if
Jeff Spicoli Steven Stamkos and his crew are still atop the Eastern Conference in two months, could make for a post season preview.
The Good News
This is going to be a great game...no doubt. Since 2007, the Bruins and Rangers have met twenty-three times and eighteen of those times the game was decided by just one goal. In their season opener, the Bruins bested the Rangers 3-1 and just a couple weeks ago Marian Gaborik's hattrick helped to top the B's in overtime.
The Bruins have some serious depth, which reflects in their 8-1-1 start (the best in franchise history) despite injuries from some big time contributors. Everyone is back and healthy now, Rask is rested after Khudobin's win in Buffalo and they even scored on the power play (first time in five efforts but we'll take it).
Boston's penalty kill is among the best in the league, so should they make mistakes, their special teams have proven they can bail them out. The Bruins are more than capable of playing strong defensive hockey and will need to do so against a Rangers team that is starting to pick up speed and find their game.
The Bad News
The New York Rangers have won their last two and three of their last four and Henrik Lundqvist is starting to look like he actually deserved that Vezina trophy last season. King Lundqvist was 19/20 against Tampa Bay last Thursday and 27/28 against the Islanders Sunday. His team has yet to win on the road, but I'm sure my fellow Swede would be more than happy to change that in Boston tonight.
Marian Gaborik had a hattrick against the Bruins in their last meeting, so look for him to cause some trouble this evening. Gaborik and Nash have been strong offensively for the Rangers all season, but lately all lines have been contributing, even fourth liner, Arron Asham, had a gino in Sunday's match against the Islanders. Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi are back and have not missed a beat, this team is really starting to look like the Rangers they were predicted to be and Eastern Conference contenders.
Anyone that has been following New York cannot help but notice that the Rangers have strong puck possession, they just do not allow the puck in their zone. Helping this...their ability to create turnovers in the neutral zone and strong forecheck. The Bruins cannot afford to get off to a late start, as they often have so far this season.
Hometown boy, Brian Boyle, will be a healthy scratch for the third straight game as he watches his team from the "halo" at TD Garden tonight. This will once again be a tight game, may even go into overtime but I'm going to trust in Boston and give this to the Black and Gold.
Where To Find It
TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, puck drops 7:30pm
TV: Local coverage NESN, national NBCSN
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub
Where To Find Me
Side Bar: Stick tap to Coach Claude Julien on being selected as the 2013 recipient of the PHPA Curt Leichner Distinguished Member Award. The Professional Hockey Players' Association will honor "Handsome Ralph" in the offseason for his continued contributions toward the advancement of professional minor league hockey and overall dedication and support of the sport. Grattis!