The Rangers (13-12-0, 26 pts) close out their five-game road trip Friday afternoon in Boston, facing the Bruins (16-7-2, 34 pts) in front of the TD Garden crowd as well as a national television audience who will be watching on NBC. With three wins in the first four games, the Rangers will definitely have a winning road trip, though a win in Boston Friday would really add an exclamation mark to it. To date the Rangers have won in Dallas, Nashville, and Florida on this trip, and were defeated only in Tampa on Monday night.
With nine road victories already this season, the Rangers have won more road games than any Eastern Conference team and are tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for the most road wins in the entire NHL. However after Friday's contest the Rangers will play just once on the road over their next 12 games--next Thursday in Buffalo. Once this trip concludes the Rangers do not take part in another road swing until after Christmas when they kick off another five-game road trip with a game in Washington on December 27th.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault has emphasized to his team that it needs to be much better in order to beat a very good Bruins team Friday than it was in ringing up a 5-2 victory on Thanksgiving Eve against the Florida Panthers. Though the five goals scored equaled the team's best single game offensive output this season, the Rangers still struggled mightily for large stretches of the game. However some terrific work by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, strong work on the power play (which was 2-for-3), and clutch contributions with five different players scoring a goal lifted the Rangers to a much-needed win following on the heels of Monday's disappointing loss in Tampa.
The Rangers will need to possess the puck much more Friday then they did on Wednesday, and they will most definitely need to a play a big game against a very physical Bruins team. Last spring the Bruins were able to finish off the Rangers in five games of their semifinal series in large part due to their dominant work along the boards, in front of Lundqvist, and on the forecheck and cycle. However the Rangers advantage in team speed leveled the playing field ten days ago when the Bruins rode a 43-save effort by goaltender Tuukka Rask to a 2-1 victory over the Blueshirts at The Garden. The Rangers will need to play a similar type game on Friday in a tough road building, TD Garden. Boston is 10-3-2 on home ice this season.
There is no advance word on whether Taylor Pyatt or Derek Dorsett will play against the Bruins. Pyatt played extremely well in his return to the lineup Wednesday after an eight-game absence due to a concussion. He replaced Dorsett, who missed his first game of the season because of a sore wrist.
Boston is coming off a shocking 6-1 loss in Detroit on Wednesday, though that defeat was preceded by a pair of overtime victories against the Penguins and Hurricanes. Only once this season have the Bruins lost two games in a row---October 26th and 30th against the Devils and Penguins, and they enter play with a one-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the competitive Atlantic Division. Boston has allowed an Eastern Conference-low 52 goals this season, and their plus-17 goal differential is best in the conference.
The 2011 Stanley Cup champions and 2013 Stanley Cup runners-up are expertly combining a cast of proven veterans with an impressive array of up and coming youngsters, including defensemen Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton. Krug has three points in his last four games, while teammate Carl Soderberg has four points in his last four games. Jarome Iginla scored the Bruins lone goal Wednesday night against Detroit, his fifth goal of the season.
Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg remains out of the lineup with a lower body injury suffered against the Rangers on November 19th.