Tuesday, February 14, 2012
W2W4: Rangers @ Bruins
By Katie Strang
At a glance: When the Rangers and Bruins met on Jan. 21, the two teams were neck and neck in the Eastern Conference standings. Heading into Tuesday’s match, the Rangers have the chance to put nine points between them and the second-place Bruins and collect their fourth consecutive win.
Battle of the best: Although the Bruins have slipped of late -- dropping three of their last five and posting an underwhelming 5-4-1 record over their last 10 games -- Tuesday's matchup will feature what many think could be a preview of this year's Eastern Conference finals. The reigning Stanley Cup champion Bruins still boast the best goal differential (plus-64) in the league and have one of the best goaltending tandems around. New York has been resilient and consistent through the first 54 games of the season and has sure-fire Vezina candidate Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes.
Trade talk: For all the compelling on-ice action to come at TD Garden, there has been intriguing behind-the-scenes chatter leading up to Tuesday's game as well. According to several reports, the Rangers have expressed interest in acquiring Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash before the Feb. 27 trade deadline. Nash has reportedly become available by last-place Columbus and would give the Rangers a huge boost offensively should GM Glen Sather be able to pull off the blockbuster deal.
Game-time decision: After missing two games with an undisclosed injury, veteran winger Ruslan Fedotenko practiced with the Rangers during the team's morning skate Tuesday. Coach John Tortorella said he was "not sure" if Fedotenko could play and Fedotenko characterized himself as a game-time decision, although it appears likely he will return to the lineup. The 33-year-old was nursing a large bruise around his left eye after taking a hard hit from Tampa Bay's Dominic Moore in the Rangers' 4-3 OT win against the Lightning on Thursday. Moore was fined $2,500 for the hit, a nasty blow that Fedotenko said he is still "angry" about.
No hard feelings: Speaking of supplementary discipline, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said he's not harboring any resentment toward Boston's Andrew Ference for Ference's suspension-worthy hit on McDonagh on Jan. 21. Ference was slapped with a three-game ban for the "reckless" hit but, fortunately for the Rangers, McDonagh suffered no serious injury on the play.
Bottom line: It’ll be Tim Thomas (23-10-0, 2.18 GAA, .931 save percentage) vs. Henrik Lundqvist (26-11-4, 1.81 GAA, .939 save percentage) in a gritty battle between the best of the East. The Bruins dropped the first on home turf; who prevails in the second?