In what could be a nasty resumption of a rivalry that’s been headed at times this season, the Boston Bruins (13-6-4, 30 pts) will host the New York Rangers (10-11-3, 23 pts) at TD Garden for the first time this season in a two-game series through the weekend.
The Boston Bruins have won three of the four games played vs. the Rangers at Madison Square Garden this season, including a nasty hard-hitting contest where Trent Frederic and Brendan Lemieux ended up throwing down. The Bruins also lost an embarrassing 6-2 decision to the Blueshirts last week that seemed to snap them out of an extended funk and has them in their current situation with a struggling offense treading water in the East Division.
The Bruins have dropped to 21st in the NHL in offensive output this season and have averaged just 2.5 goals per game over their last 12 contests.
“We just haven’t generated, or finished, I should say. Five-on-five is just not where it needs to be to consistently win, or to extend leads if you do get them. It’s a concern across the board. It’s not so much the top-heavy part of it, but just overall,” said Don Sweeney, while addressing the media in a Wednesday afternoon Zoom call. “Injuries have played a little bit of a factor there on the back end, but we’ve also not given up that much. The goaltenders are playing pretty well. So yeah, I think [offense] is a major concern for us.”
The Rangers have lost two in a row while getting outscored by a 9-3 margin by the Pittsburgh Penguins and are at the end of a long six-game stretch on the road where they’ve gone through Jersey, Pittsburgh and now Boston. Ryan Strome has three points in four games against the Bruins and former B’s draft pick Ryan Lindgren has been very active against the team that traded him with three assists, over 20 minutes of ice time per game and a number of heavy, hard hits on Bruins superstar David Pastrnak.
North Shore kid Colin Blackwell has a team-leading two goals against the Bruins this season and has been a factor when the two teams have matched up this season.
Jaroslav Halak (5-2-2, 2.08 GAA, .919 save percentage) will get the start for the Bruins with Tuukka Rask still struggling and out of the lineup with what appeared to be a back injury suffered last weekend against the Devils. Alexandar Georgiev (4-3-2, 3.03 goals against average, .897 save percentage) gets the start for the Blueshirts and is 1-0-1 with a .929 save percentage against the B’s this season.
-Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk will return to the lineup tonight after being a healthy scratch following seven straight games without a goal and scoring just once in 17 games this season. Cassidy and his staff have been as patient as they can with DeBrusk, who had 27 goals two seasons ago and 19 last season.
He’ll get back into the lineup on the left side with David Krejci as they slide Nick Ritchie over to right wing, and Bruce Cassidy said there should be no gray area as to what they are looking for out of the 23-year-old.
“The message was delivered to him. We all spoke to him. I don’t think there’s any gray area in that. How is he going to play better? The message from me to him is that it’s a second-effort league, Jake and you need more second effort whether that’s on the forecheck, whether that’s in front of the net or whether that’s away from the puck.
“I think the rest will take care of itself because he’s got the natural skill package to get things done at this level, foot speed and he can score. Those are the things he can do if he has second effort and he has the puck on his stick more often. Hopefully he looks at it as a reset and he just puts those first 22 games behind him.”
– With DeBrusk sitting in the press box tonight, center Sean Kuraly draws in after being a healthy scratch himself for the last two games. Kuraly has two goals and two assists in 20 games this season.
-Dan Vladar will back up Halak for the second straight game as Tuukka Rask continues to be out with a “lingering issue” that cropped up at the end of last weekend’s Jersey game. If the injury continues to bother Rask then Vladar could be looking at a start at the beginning of next week with back-to-back games against the Penguins.
—Zach Senyshyn draws in for the first time this season for the Bruins after posting five goals and nine points in 11 games with the Providence Bruins. Senyshyn has played tougher with and without the puck this season, has played with great speed and finally looks like he’s ready for an NHL audition after struggling to generate offense consistently in his first few AHL season. Anders Bjork and Chris Wagner will be scratched to make room for both Senyshyn and DeBrusk.
–The Bruins scored a power play goal Tuesday night and snapped out of a six-game scoreless slump with their special teams in the shootout loss to the Isles and are now 16-for-64 on the man advantage this season. They’re 11th in the NHL with a 25 percent success rate.
-The Boston Bruins penalty kill was the lone bright spot Sunday killing off all three Devils’ powerplays. The Bruins PK is once again the best in the NHL with an 88.2 percent success rate. They’ve killed off 67 of 76 powerplay attempts against them.
– Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren has been a big factor against the Bruins this season with his physical, gritty play and the punishing way he’s doled out hits playing against Boston’s best players while putting up three points. Lindgren also has three helpers in the four games against the Bruins and is part of a Rangers team that should be a little ornery after losing a couple of games to the Penguins.
“We’ve talked about how tough our division is,” said Chris Kreider. “There are lessons to be learned, win or lose, but at the end of the day we have to find a way to get the two points.”
– Artemi Panarin (five goals, 18 points in 14 games) won’t be drawing right back into the lineup for the Blueshirts after missing almost three weeks following a leave of absence due to media stories coming out of Russia. But the expectation is that he might play on Saturday vs. the Bruins after returning to practice on Wednesday. Panarin played in only one game against the Bruins this season and had gone scoreless in that contest but should bring tons of energy to a New York Rangers group that could use it right now.
-The Rangers are 25th in the NHL in powerplay with a 16.2 percent success rate and have really struggled on the man advantage this year.
-The Rangers rank second in the NHL with an 87.2 percent success rate, which means the two best penalty kills in the league will be going against each other on Thursday night at TD Garden.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Nick Ritchie
Trent Frederic – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith
Sean Kuraly – Jack Studnicka – Zach Senyshyn
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Jakub Zboril – Connor Clifton
Jarred Tinordi – Urho Vaakanainen
New York Rangers Lines
Buchnevich — Zibanejad — Lafreniere
Gauthier — Rooney — Chytil
Giuseppe — Howden — Blackwell
Johnson — Smith
Fox — Lindgren
Trouba — Miller