Bruins Look to Improve Playoff Position in Afternoon Tilt With Rangers

Bruins Look to Improve Playoff Position in Afternoon Tilt With RangersThe Bruins and Rangers square off in a crucial Eastern Conference tilt at the TD Garden on Sunday on national television.

Despite a lackluster effort by the Bruins in a 3-0 loss to the Penguins on Thursday, the Bruins still enter the game with a three-point cushion, and win or lose, will still hold onto the eighth slot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. However, the B's would much rather pad that lead in the standings to five points and bury the Rangers, who are also coming off a loss Thursday.

This is a must-win for both clubs, so hopefully, we get a classic Original Six playoff-like matchup.

WHEN AND WHERE

Sunday March 21, 12:30 p.m. (NBC)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.

RECORDS

Bruins (31-27-12, 74 points, fourth place in Northeast Division, eighth place in Eastern Conference)
Rangers (31-31-9, 71 points, fourth place Atlantic Division, tenth place Eastern Conference)

HEAD TO HEAD

This is the final meeting of the season between these two clubs, with the Bruins still looking for their first win against the Blue Shirts. New York took the last tilt 3-1 at TD Garden. They have outscored the Bruins 7-3 in three games.

The Bruins lead the lifetime series 281-235-97-6

SKINNY

If both teams show up with the passion they should have at this time of the season, this will have a playoff atmosphere and should be a dandy, but unfortunately that's a big if with both teams as they have struggled to find consistent effort and passion.

"We're getting at the end of the season where every game means a lot. We've shown the good side of our team at times, and then we've shown the other side that makes us question why we’re so inconsistent," head coach Claude Julien told the media after practice yesterday. "I think the bottom line right now is that we’ve got twelve games to get consistency. Night in, night out battle like you’re battling for your life, and that’s exactly what we need to show."

The Rangers seem to know the importance of this game and are looking at it as a "Game 7."

"It comes down to a Game 7 for us," Brandon Dubinsky told Rangers Rants. "We'll be ready to go."

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Bruins
Forwards
Marco Sturm–Patrice Bergeron–Mark Recchi
Blake Wheeler–David Krejci–Michael Ryder
Milan Lucic–Vladimir Sobotka–Miroslav Satan
Daniel Paille–Steve Begin–Brad Marchand/Shawn Thornton

Defensemen
Zdeno Chara–Dennis Seidenberg
Mark Stuart–Dennis Wideman
Matt Hunwick–Johnny Boychuk/Andrew Ference

Goaltenders
Tuukka Rask
Tim Thomas

Rangers
Forwards
Brandon Dubinsky–Erik Christensen–Marian Gaborik
Vinny Prospal–Chris Drury–Ryan Callahan
Sean Avery–Artem Anisimov–Olli Jokinen/Aaron Voros
Jody Shelley–Brian Boyle–Brandon Prust/Enver Lisin

Defensemen
Marc Staal–Michal Rozsival
Michael Del Zotto–Dan Girardi
Wade Redden–Matt Gilroy
 
Goaltenders
Henrik Lundqvist
Alex Auld

GOALTENDER MATCHUP

Bruins
Tuukka Rask is 16-10-4 with a 2.12 GAA, a .928 save percentage and three shutouts. Rask made 28 saves in the 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday. Rask is ranked first in the NHL in GAA and tied for second in save-percentage.

Tim Thomas is 15-17-8 with a 2.57 GAA and a .914 save percentage. He has four shutouts.

Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist is 28-25-8 with a 2.47 GAA and .918 save percentage. He has two shutouts this season with one of them a 1-0 win over the Bruins on Nov. 1.

Alex Auld is 9-7-3 with a 2.94 GAA and .896 save percentage. He has yet to win in two appearances with the Rangers since being acquired from Dallas off re-entry waivers on February 27.

STAT SHEET

Bruins
One of the hottest lines in the NHL right now is the Bruins' new top line of Marco Sturm, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. The dynamic trio was shut down Thursday but has combined for 16 points in its last six games.

Bergeron leads the team with 45 points.

Sturm leads the team with 21 goals.

David Krejci had a four-game point streak snapped Thursday. He had seven points during that stretch. He now has 40 points on the season.

Dennis Seidenberg has five assists in nine games with the Bruins.

For the second straight game the Bruins went 0-for-4 on the power play Thursday and are now 40-for-228 with a 17.9 percent success rate. The Bruins are 0-for-15 on the power play over the last four games and 1-for-16 on the power play since Marc Savard was injured in Pittsburgh March 7.
 
The Bruins killed off three of four Hurricanes power plays on Tuesday and have surrendered only 34 goals on 240 power plays. The Bruins' penalty kill ranks third in the NHL, less than one percentage point separating them from the top spot.

Rangers
Marian Gaborik registered three points against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night and now has 76 points on the season. In his last five games, Gaborik has recorded 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists). He is tied for fifth in the NHL in goalscoring with 37 lamp-lighters.

Vinny Prospal has recorded five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in his last five games.

After being a healthy scratch March 12, Sean Avery has responded with three points (2 goals, 1 assist) and has drawn four penalties in his last three games.

The Rangers power play is 49-for-265 with an 18.5 percent success rate. They were 1-for-5 in a 4-3 loss to the Blues Thursday.

The Rangers allowed one power-play goal on two St. Louis power plays Thursday and have only allowed 47 power-play goals on 281 power plays faced for an 83.3 percent success rate.

BLACK AND BLUE

Bruins
Marc Savard is out indefinitely with a concussion.

Dennis Seidenberg is questionable with the flu

Rangers
None

THIS DATE IN BRUINS HISTORY

On March 21, 1974 Bobby Orr scores a hat-trick in a 7-0 win vs. St Louis, keeping a promise to gravely ill child that he would score for him.

OVERHEARD

"We're all looking for the answers, and we [go through] stretches where we have one, two good games and one, two bad games. Consistency is one word we can use. We have to find that, and with that [comes] the emotions — you know, passion, pride, all that stuff. It’s been one of those things that we push ourselves [forward] for one game, and then we slip back. It is, for sure, frustrating."
–Captain Zdeno Chara on the Bruins lack of consistency

PRESS BOX

Bruins
Lyndon Byers is disgusted with the current Bruins.

Will the fans show up at TD Garden today or will their be a "Goldout"?

A belated Happy 62nd Birthday to the greatest hockey player ever!

Rangers
Is Rangers head coach John Tortorella dictator-like approach wearing thin?

The Rangers and Islanders are set to make TV history

Here's a great Rangers blog

NHL
Alexander Ovechkin returned from a two-game suspension or what he termed a "vacation" last night. But Brian Campbell isn't looking at his time nursing injuries suffered from a cheap shot by Ovechkin as a "vacation."

Tuff-n-Lite Hockey cut-resistant skate socks are saving players from serious injuries

Could former MLBPA leader Donald Fehr be the next NHLPA leader?

OUTLOOK

It’s do-or-die time for this Jekyll and Hyde club and it’s their choice whether they come out and play with heart and pride or watch this season slip away. 

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