The Boston Bruins will try to bounce back from their worst loss of the season and erase the 7-2 debacle to the New York Islanders when they play the New York Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden.
For a third time this season, the Bruins (11-4-2, 24 pts, .706 P %) and Rangers (6-8-3, 15 pts, .441 P %) will renew their rivalry at Madison Square Garden as they begin a two-game set tonight that concludes with a noon matinee Sunday.
“It will be good to just get right back out there and have a chance to bounce back,” Boston Bruins winger Craig Smith said after the embarrassing loss Thursday that saw the Bruins allow five unanswered third period goals to the Islanders.
There will be a noticeable difference at the world’s most popular arena when the Bruins and Rangers drop the puck tonight (7 PM ET, NESN, MSG, NHLN, TVAS, Sportsnet) as for the first time this season, both teams will play in front of fans. The state of New York is allowing 10-percent capacity in all sporting venues now and that means there can be a max of 2,087 fans at MSG tonight and Sunday.
“It’ll be exciting,” Rangers head coach David Quinn said after practice Thursday. “It’s been strange because we’ve actually been getting used to playing in front of nobody, so I don’t care if there’s 15 or 1,500 people in the building, it’s going to be nice to have people there cheering you on. I know our guys are excited about it. As excited as these people are to get in the building, we’re more excited to have them in the building. It’s such a historic venue, but when you put people in it, it just makes it that much more enjoyable.”
The Bruins actually found out Thursday that beginning on March 23, they will be able to allow 12 percent capacity for their home games at TD Garden.
The Boston Bruins swept a two-game set with the Rangers on Feb. 10 (3-2 OTW) and Feb. 12 (1-0). Both teams have struggled since they last met with the Bruins going 1-3-0 and the Rangers 2-2-0.
Tuukka Rask (7-2-1, 2.56 GAA, .901 save percentage) will be back between the pipes for the Boston Bruins and Alex Georgiev (2-2-2, 2.95 GAA, .893 save percentage) gets the nod for the Rangers
– Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (lower-body) has been skating but Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed Friday morning that Grzelcyk will not suit up tonight. Grzelcyk hasn’t played since the Bruins’ 3-2 overtime win against the Rangers on Feb. 10 and has now missed 11 games this season. Cassidy was hopeful that the puck-moving rearguard can return to action on Sunday.
Defenseman Jeremy Lauzon (broken hand) is out for four weeks. Defenseman Kevan Miller (maintenance) and center David Krejci (lower-body) are day-to-day. Forward Ondrej Kase (upper-body) is on injured reserve.
– The Bruins went 0-for-2 on the powerplay in the loss to the Islanders Thursday and are now 15-for-52 on the man advantage this season. They’re sixth in the NHL with a 28.9 percent success rate.
-The Boston Bruins penalty kill continued to be stellar on Thursday killing off both of the Islanders’ powerplay. The Bruins have now killed off 52 of 59 powerplay attempts against them. Their 88.1 percent success rate is second only to the Colorado Avalanche who are at 88.7 percent.
– One positive Thursday was that the Bruins continued to get depth scoring. In their 7-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe Sunday, ‘The Perfection Line’ was clicking as David Pastrnak got his second hat trick of the season but the Bruins also got the depth scoring. Bruins forwards Nick Ritchie, Charlie Coyle, and Tren Frederic all lit the lamp to help bust that game open. On Thursday, the Bruins got goals from Ritchie (again) and Craig Smith. As the schedule gets crazier and the points mean more, the Bruins will need their bottom nine forwards to pick up even more slack as teams crackdown on and try to wear down ‘The Perfection Line’. The last two games are a good sign they won’t have to always depend on Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak
– Former Boston College star and Boxford, MA native Chris Kreider has been lighting it up as of late. The Rangers winger had a hat trick in a 4-3 loss to the Flyers on Wednesday and has four goals in his last two games. Kreider leads the team with eight lamplighters in 17 games.
-Former Harvard defenseman Adam Fox, who is quietly emerging as one of the best young defensemen in the NHL, has become a workhorse on the Rangers blue line. The 23-year-old rearguard is averaging 25:07 TOI per game.
– The Rangers remain without their best player Artemi Panarin, who is on a leave of absence after allegations in Russia that he assaulted a woman in a bar in 2011. Panarin, who is a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, vehemently denied the allegations claiming that it was a ‘political hit job’ by Putin loyalists led by former NHLer Andrei Nazarov. Panarin is on an indefinite leave of absence.
The Rangers are also without forward Kaapo Kakko and defenseman K’Andre Miller, who are both on the COVID Protocol list, and defenseman Jacob Trouba who is on injured reserve with a broken thumb.
-The Rangers powerplay has struggled this season and is ranked 26th in the NHL with a 14.9 percent success rate.
– The Rangers are ranked 8th in the NHL on the penalty kill with an 88.4 percent success rate.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith
Anders Bjork – Jack Studnicka – Jake DeBrusk
Trent Frederic – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Urho Vaakanainen – Charlie McAvoy
Jakub Zboril – Brandon Carlo
John Moore – Connor Clifton
New York Rangers Lines
Alexis Lafreniere — Mika Zibanejad — Pavel Buchnevich
Chris Kreider — Ryan Strome — Colin Blackwell
Brendan Lemieux — Brett Howden — Julien Gauthier
Phil Di Giuseppe — Kevin Rooney — Jonny Brodsinski
Ryan Lindgren — Adam Fox
Jack Johnson — Brendan Smith
Anthony Bitetto — Libor Hajek