Blueshirts Ship Up to Boston

The Rangers and Bruins, two teams that seem destined for post-season play, will meet tonight at TD Bank Center in Boston for the third and final time of the regular season.

The Bruins and Rangers have not met since early November and the Blueshirts have won both early season meetings by a 5-2 score.

Boston is 7-1-0 in the eight games since Bruce Cassidy was elevated from an assistant’s role to an interim position as head coach, replacing Claude Julien. Brad Marchand, who continues to round his game into one driven more by skill, leads the Bruins in scoring and has accumulated five goals and six assists since the Bruins’ coaching change.

Alain Vigneault is impressed with how Brendan Smith is fitting in with the team and provides updates on the injured Rangers ahead of their matchup in Boston.

The Rangers are coming off a 4-1 loss to Washington, where they did get the game’s opening goal, but the injury-ravaged lineup could not withstand the deep, talented onslaught of the Caps over the last two periods.

Newly-acquired Brendan Smith will add some much-needed NHL game and grit to the back end, with both Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein expected to be out of the lineup once again due to injury.

KEYS

1. Special Teams

In the past six games, the Rangers are a minus-5 in the plus/minus column when it comes to goals scored versus goals given up on the special teams. That is not going cut it. At worst case, you need this number to be even.

2. Stepan

Ranges Stepan Sabres Away 120116

Derek Stepan hasn’t scored in his last 18 games and has just one assist in his last five starts. Stepan is an important part of the Rangers team, while not a prolific goal-scorer, his offensive hockey sense warrants better offensive numbers.

3. Physicality

The speed and skill of the Blueshirts are what’s going to carry them, but there are times when it won’t work and biting back to a physical opponent is equally important. While the Bruins aren’t the Big, Bad Bruins of yesteryear, they still have a core of physicality. Backing down won’t work if the heat gets turned up.

Catch the Rangers-Bruins tonight on the MSG Radio Network, ESPN 98.7 FM and the MSG Television Network. 6:30 pre-game, puck drop a little after 7.

Check it out!