The Boston Bruins (31-14-7, 69 pts) will welcome what’s expected to be a very emotionally drained New York Rangers (26-22-6, 58 pts) team to TD Garden Thursday night (7 PM ET, NESN, MSG, NBCSN, SN360) in the first of a two-game set that concludes with a 3 PM matinee at the Garden on Saturday.
These will be the final two games of the season between the two Original Six teams with the Boston Bruins holding a 4-2-0 record against the Blueshirts thus far.
After clinching a ticket to the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with their 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Monday night, the Boston Bruins blew two third-period leads and lost to the Devils on Tuesday 4-3 in overtime. That overtime loss point though kept the third-place Bruins within striking distance of either winning the East Division or finishing in second place. Heading into NHL action on Thursday, the Bruins trailed the idle and first-place Washington Capitals (34-14-5, 73 pts), and second-place Pittsburgh Penguins (35-16-3, 73 pts), by four points and led the fourth-place New York Islanders (31-16-6, 68 pts), by a point. The Penguins are hosting the last-place Buffalo Sabres tonight and the Islanders are hosting the Devils.
While the Boston Bruins continue to jockey for seeding in the playoffs, the New York Rangers are now playing for pride and jobs next season. That Rangers’ pride was tested last night against the Washington Capitals in what became a very meaningful game for the present Rangers roster and the future after the latest Tom Wilson shenanigans knocked their best player, Artemi Panarin out for the season and yet lucky his entire career didn’t end when his head hit the ice after Wilson bodyslammed him on Monday night. That boiled over into a donnybrook with the Caps on Wednesday in maybe the most anticipated NHL game of the season and a one-game suspension for Rangers forward Pavel Buschnevich who cross-checked Capitals winger Anthony Mantha in the second period of his team’s 4-2 loss Wednesday.
Oh, to make things even more chaotic and emotional, the Rangers stunned the NHL and fired President John Davidson and former Boston Bruins General Manager Jeff Gorton who has been the Rangers GM since 2015 and done a splendid job rebuilding the franchise.
With the Rangers coming in off such an emotional night and a franchise-altering day, the hockey-betting world is laying the money in on the Boston Bruins but the Bruins realize they need to be wary of a wounded and cornered Rangers team with nothing to lose at this point.
“It will be the same as any team coming in off a back-to-back,” Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Thursday. “We want to get the jump on them, get going. We had the day off [on Wednesday], we have more to play for than they do. We don’t get into specifics about the dynamics of their team. I think everyone is aware of what happened. There were some changes made there. That will be the message: start on time, which isn’t that different from every other night. But this one is a little more important considering there was a lot of emotions in the game last night.”
-Rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman will start tonight. Swayman is 6-2-0 with a 1.62 GAA and a .942 save percentage.
-After leaving the game in the second intermission on Tuesday, Boston Bruins forward Charlie Coyle will miss tonight’s game with an upper-body injury.
-Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk will take Coyle’s spot on the right wing of the third line with Sean Kuraly and Nick Ritchie. DeBrusk opened up Thursday about what’s been an absolutely miserable season for the 24-year-old winger.
-Defenseman Kevan Miller will be back in the lineup for this one as he continues his playing every other game load management.
-Boston Bruins winger Chris Wagner has been out the last three games after suffering an injury on Thursday but did return to practice on Sunday. He was a healthy scratch Tuesday night and will remain one tonight.
-Defenseman John Moore is out for the season after undergoing hip surgery. Forward Ondrej Kase is still listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury but has been skating.
–The Bruins’ powerplay went 1-for-3 on Tuesday. They are now 32-for-150 on the man advantage this season. They’re 11th in the NHL with a 21.3% success rate.
-The PK killed off three of the Devils’ powerplays on Tuesday. They’re first in the NHL with an 86.2% success rate. They’ve killed off 150 of 174 powerplay attempts against them this season.
New York Rangers Notes
-With the dismissals of Gorton and Davidson, the Rangers named former Boston University star Chris Drury as President and GM.
-If you love old-time hockey reminiscent of the movie Slapshot, you got it last night in the Rangers-Capitals game:
-As mentioned above, the Rangers will be missing Panarin and Buscnevich. They will also be without Julian Gauthier (lower-body), Ryan Lindgren (upper-body), Chris Kreider (lower-body), and Jacob Trouba (upper-body). Like Panarin, Brett Howden (foot) and Jack Johnson (hernia) were previously ruled out for the season.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – Sean Kuraly – Jake DeBrusk
Trent Frederic – Curtis Lazar – Karson Kuhlman
Jeremy Lauzon – Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk – Brandon Carlo
Mike Reilly – Kevan Miller
Jaro Halak/Tuukka Rask
New York Rangers Lines
Strome – Zibanejad – Kakko
Lafreniere – Chytil – Blackwell
Barron – Rooney – Kravtsov
Di Giuseppe – Richards – Brodzinski
Miller – Fox
Hajek – Jones
Reunanen – Smith