The Bruins are entering tonight’s game against the New York Rangers just seven points out of First Place in the Eastern Conference. 15 of the last 18 games between these teams have been decided by one goal, including six 1-0 decisions in that span. If the Rangers are able to win the game in regulation tonight, they will be the second team to earn 100 points in games which the Bruins don’t register the extra point. The Bruins play game four tonight of an eight of ten games on the road. They are 2-1-0 and are gearing up for their longest road trip of the season with six games in eleven days from February 15-25.
On the other side of the ice the Rangers are playing their third game of four tonight in the past four days and are coming off of a 3-2 win against the Washington Capitals on Sunday at Madison Square Garden for their seventh win in nine games. The Rangers sit at the top of the Eastern Conference and second overall in the League with 77points.
Tonight marks the second time these two teams will meet out of four and the final match of the season at the TD Garden. In their last match-up, birthday boy Marian Gaborik notched two goals, including the game-winner with 0:04 remaining in overtime. Ryan Callahan tallied one goal and one assist and Henrik Lundvquist posted 32 saves. Lundvquist has had 21 consecutive starts against Boston, dating back to January 2007. Henrik Lundvquist is 6-1-0 with a 1.26 GAA, .954 save% sporting two shutouts in his last seven games. In 11 of his last 21 games he has allowed one goal or less and has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 29 games this season.
Tim Thomas was the first goaltender off the ice at practice this morning indicating that he will get the nod in net tonight. Thomas has won his last two starts with a 4-1 victory against Washington and a 4-3 shoot-out win against eh Nashville Predators. In 36 games played Thomas has a 2.18 GAA, .931 save% and has 4 shutouts. He is 5-1-0 in his last six starts and had a career-best ten-game win streak from November 1 – December 5.
The Bruins have recalled Massachusetts native Joshua Hennessy and defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk from Providence. Hennessy is looking to play in his first game as a Bruin and has registered 30 points (15G,15A) in 49 games played with the Providence Bruins. Bodnarchuk has played only five games with the Bruins, the last time being April 11, 2010.
While Johnny Boychuk has signed a 3-year extension with the Bruins for an average annual salary of $3.36million per season, there are rumors circulating about the Bruins being interested in the Oilers Ryan Smyth. Smyth brings a similar game to the table as former Bruin Mark Recchi and would be considered an asset to the team coming into the play-off run. It would likely cost the Bruins a high draft pick to bring him on as well as a cap hit over $6 million.
While rumors of Smyth have circulated, there has also been talk of Mike Knuble of the Capitals coming back to Boston. Knuble has sat out the last three games for Washington as a healthy scratch and has registered only 3 goals and 11 assists in 53 games played. He is 6′ 3″, 227lbs with the “grit and ridiculous courage to plop himself in front of the net no matter who’s shooting at it.”(Joe Haggerty) On a team with big shooters like Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk, that kind of player could be a truly valuable asset with his net front presence. He is an asset that would cost little(in the neighborhood of a third round draft pick) and would wreak havoc in front of the net of some of the toughest goalies.
While the Bruins are looking to make some changes heading into the play-off run, they aren’t the only ones. There is also speculation of the Rangers looking to take on Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash. Nash has scored 40-plus goals twice during his career, 30-plus goals six times, and at least 27 goals in every year since his rookie season. While he is having an off-year this year,(17 goals and 35 points in 53 games)he is still one of the team’s top scorers and is registering them despite a poor year for the team as a whole. While the Rangers would need to trade someone in return for Nash($7.8million), if they were to free up Dubinsky and Wolski, they would save $200,000 in cap space.
Lines for tonight’s match-up should remain pretty similar to those we have seen in the past few games with Krejci sporting the third line with Caron and Pouliot while Kelly centers Peverley and Lucic. However, with the current recalls of Joshua Hennessy and Andrew Bodnarchuk, there is no telling what Julien has up his sleeve. While both men participated in this morning’s optional skate, Julien states the men are simply there for number purposes, especially heading into an 11-day stretch.
Tonight’s game is being broadcast on the New England Sports Network(NESN) at 7pm EST.