Rangers hope to end skid vs. Bruins
NEW YORK -- To climb out of the Metropolitan Division basement, the New York Rangers will have to beat the hottest team in the Eastern Conference.
The Rangers will look to begin scraping their way back into playoff contention Wednesday night, when they host the surging Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden.
The Bruins won for the eighth time in 10 games Tuesday night, when they edged the host Detroit Red Wings, 3-2. The Rangers suffered their seventh loss in 10 games Monday, when they capped a rough road trip through the Central Division by falling to the Dallas Stars, 2-1.
The current skid by the Rangers (25-23-5) has dropped them into last place in the Metropolitan Division. But the good news for New York is the packed nature of the Metro leaves them just three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders, who are tied for the second and final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
"The frustrating thing is that we're not winning right now," Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said following Monday's loss. "I think effort-wise, we're playing better than the results we're getting. But that's just the way it is right now. What you've got to do is keep working, come to work everyday and work on getting better. And that's what we're going to do."
It's hard to play much better than the Bruins (32-11-8), who are not only 8-1-1 in their last 10 games but 17-1-3 in 21 games since Dec. 18. The red-hot run has pulled Boston within three points of the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning, whose 75 points are tops in the NHL.
"The whole year, I think our focus has been on our game and how we want to play the game (and) not really worry(ing) about who we're playing against," said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who recorded 26 saves in earning the win Tuesday -- the 21st straight appearance in which he's garnered at least a point. "As long as we're happy with our game, the wins keep coming."
With the Bruins playing the second game of a back-to-back set, Rask will likely sit Wednesday in favor of No. 2 goalie Anton Khudobin. The Rangers are expected to counter with their top netminder, Henrik Lundqvist.
Khudobin took the Bruins' lone regulation loss in the last six-plus weeks in his most recent appearance Jan. 30, when he made 24 saves in a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Lundqvist took the loss Monday despite collecting 39 saves.
Khudobin is 0-2-2 in four career regular-season appearances against the Rangers. Lundqvist is 27-12-2 in 41 games against the Bruins.
Both teams have injury issues heading into Wednesday's game. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said left winger Frank Vatrano, who exited Tuesday's tilt with a lower-body injury, is unlikely to play against the Rangers. For New York, right winger Pavel Buchnevich (concussion), defenseman Marc Staal (cervical strain) and left winger Jimmy Vesey (concussion), are all expected to sit out.
Updated February 7, 2018