New York Hockey: Claude Julien

W2W4: Rangers at Bruins

January, 19, 2013
At a glance: After a lockout that lasted almost four months and robbed NHL fans of almost half the regular season, hockey is back with an Original Six matchup between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Rust will be a factor, as all teams had only six days of training camp to prepare for what promises to be an intense, whirlwind 48-game schedule. But this should be a high-energy, physical game to kick the season off right.

Top teams: The Opening Day faceoff between the Blueshirts and B's features two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers captured the top spot in the East after a tremendous 109-point regular season last year, while the Bruins finished second. Both teams won their respective divisions, and are projected to challenge for titles again in 2013. Both squads boast a formidable first line as well. The Rangers will have veteran center Brad Richards between Carl Hagelin and Rick Nash while Boston will line up Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin as their top trio.

Blue debut: Star winger Rick Nash, who had spent his entire career in Columbus after being selected first overall in the 2002 draft, will don a Rangers jersey for the first time Saturday night, in his first game since being shipped to New York in a blockbuster deal this summer. Nash, who has registered five consecutive seasons with 30 goals or more, suffered minor injuries while playing overseas in Switzerland during the lockout, but says he is healthy and ready to play when the puck drops at 7 p.m.

Tuukka’s the top guy: With controversial netminder Tim Thomas’ time in Boston over, Tuukka Rask will be the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender for the lockout-shortened 48-game season. Rask, 25, played 23 games last season behind Thomas and posted impressive numbers -- a 2.05 goals against average and .929 save percentage -- but has never had to shoulder the responsibility of being the team’s go-to guy. He’ll face his first major test as he squares off against reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist in net.

Kreider returns: Chris Kreider, the 21-year-old winger who set the NHL ablaze with a remarkable playoff performance as a thrown-into-the-fire rookie, returns to Boston for the first time in his professional career. Why so special? Kreider led Boston College to a national championship last spring and is expecting a significant cheering section Saturday at TD Garden.

Teach me how to Dougie: Former first-round pick (ninth overall in 2011) Dougie Hamilton will play in his first professional game Saturday for the Bruins. The 19-year-old defenseman registered eight goals and 33 assists in 32 games with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League, and Boston hopes he can make the daunting jump from juniors to the pros without too many growing pains. Said Bruins coach Claude Julien: “The only weakness that he has is his lack of experience and we’ve got to allow him to get that.”

All in the family: Joining Hamilton in making his professional debut will be 26-year-old Chris Bourque, son of Bruins legend Ray Bourque. The Boston native spent 32 games with the AHL's Providence Bruins this season and will open on the team's third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. Chris is also the older brother of Ryan Bourque, a Rangers prospect currently playing with the AHL's Connecticut Whale.

Morning skate roundup: Rangers at Bruins

January, 19, 2013
With less than six hours remaining before the puck drops on the 2013 season, the excitement is building at TD Garden for Saturday night's season-opening Original Six matchup between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.

No real surprises lineup-wise. The Rangers will start 2012 Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist in goal. Stu Bickel will slot in as the team's sixth defenseman on the third pairing with Michael Del Zotto, while both Steve Eminger and Matt Gilroy sit out. Tough guy Arron Asham will also be a scratch as he serves the one game remaining on his outstanding four-game suspension from last season's playoffs.

AHL call-up forward Brandon Segal will replace Asham on the fourth line.

Saturday's game between the top two finishers in the Eastern Conference last season will be Rick Nash's debut with the Rangers. Read more about what he expects from the milestone here.

Nash, a big body with superstar skills, is regarded as the piece that could push the Rangers to the forefront of the Stanley Cup contender conversation.

"It raises expectations," captain Ryan Callahan said of Nash's arrival. "Expectations were already high after the season we had last year, so you just have to handle it the right way. ... You can just see his talent on the ice. He's going to help us in a lot of departments."

Rookie Chris Kreider will make his heralded return to Boston after leading Boston College to a national championship last season in the NCAA's Frozen Four. Kreider is expecting around 20 family members to attend Saturday night's game.

"It's obviously a little special," he said. "I'm excited. It's Boston."

Neither coach is expecting a perfect game from his respective club with the lengthy absence caused by the lockout.

"There's always rust. It's a game of mistakes," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We're not going to over-think it. It's our first game and we're tying to go about our business as best we can."

What's Claude Julien's game plan? "Keep things simple. Don't complicate it and make it harder than it has to be."

The Bruins return with a top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. Seguin led the Bruins in scoring with 67 points last year (29 goals, 38 assists) and hopes to build on that performance in his third professional season.

Tuuka Rask will be in goal for the Bruins. Rookie Dougie Hamilton will play in his first NHL game. The 19-year-old defenseman was the Bruins' first-round pick -- ninth overall -- in the 2011 draft.

W2W4: Islanders vs. Bruins

December, 9, 2010
The Isles are back in action tonight, facing the Boston Bruins. Here are three factors to monitor when the game gets underway.

Lighting the Lamp
Boston has been able to save a little on their electricity bills this season, considering visiting teams have been unable to turn on the goal light too often. The Bruins are the NHL’s top defensive team, combining some stellar goaltending from Tim Thomas with a top-notch blue line and a neutral-zone clogging trap. The Islanders are the second-lowest scoring team in the league, which means the Isles’ defense will need to be far stingier than their 3.24 goals-against average Thursday night.

Sparking Tavares
John Tavares has been held without a point in the past two games. By far the post talented player the Islanders have, New York needs him to be more productive ... but how? Every game he usually faces the opposition’s top checking line and defensive pairing. Considering he doesn’t have much help, it’s been tough for him to get going, but it’s doubtful his help is going to get any better this season. JT is going to have to do it himself.

The System
Given the Islanders’ propensity to sit back under new coach Jack Capuano, this could be a really slow game decided by one or two key neutral zone turnovers. The Isles have reeled in their forecheck under the new coach and Claude Julien’s B’s have always hovered in the neutral zone, waiting to snatch up an errant pass and speed back on an odd-man rush. New York will have to take extra-good care of the puck through center ice tonight.