The Bruins are coming off a come-from-behind 2-1 OT win over the Flyers on Friday, in a game that few will forget any time soon. Friday’s Winter Classic lived up to all its hype, from the stealth bomber flyover to Marco Sturm’s overtime winner. The challenge now is to remain focused and build on the team’s momentum as they enter a very busy month of January. With the condensed schedule due to the two-week Olympic break, NHL teams league-wide will find themselves facing 3 or 4 games every week, leading up to the break.
Now that we’ve looked back a bit, let’s now look forward, to tonight’s battle in the Big Apple…
Tonight is the second meeting of the season between these two Original Six teams. On Nov. 1, goalie Henrik Lundqvist saved 29 shots to lead the Rangers to a 1-0 shutout of Boston at MSG. Three of the last six games between the Bruins and Rangers have ended in 1-0 scores, and the last six meetings have all been decided by just one-goal margins.
New York has been struggling to find offense this season, but recently has been able to string a few wins together to give themselves a glimmer of hope. The Blueshirts are 5-1-2 in their last 8 games, coming off a 2-1 OT home loss Saturday night against the worst team in the league, the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Rangers have had a very tough time winning on home ice as of late, losing 8 of their last 9 games at the Garden.
All indications from each teams’ morning skate sessions point to a goalie matchup of Tuukka Rask against New York’s Henriq Lundqvist (17-14-6, 2.43GAA). Lundqvist is backed up by Steve Valiquette (2-3-1, 3.74GAA).
Scoring for the Rangers is led by the league’s leading goal scorer, Marian Gaborik. Gaborik, who came over via free agency in the off-season, has lit the lamp 27 times already, adding 25 assists. Behind Gaborik, there’s not much. The only other Ranger with more than 20 points on the stat sheet is center Vinny Prospal (8G, 24A), but he is out of the lineup after undergoing knee surgery last week.
As for local flair on New York’s roster, you’ll find one Boston College alum, Hingham-born center Brian Boyle, and two former B.U. Terriers, veteran Chris Drury and rookie defenseman Matt Gilroy. Drury, a 33-year-old center and former Little League World Series star, was named to the U.S. Olympic hockey team on Friday, along with Boston’s Tim Thomas.
For the home team, the B’s made noise in the hockey Hot Stove world over the weekend, signing 35-year-old winger Miroslav Satan to a 1-year, pro-rated $700,000 contract. The deal will hit the team’s cap with a modest $350,000 mark. Satan most recently saw NHL time as a part of last season’s Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins team. Satan, who will wear number 81, formerly worn by Phil Kessel of course, should be ready for game action in 7-10 days, according to the coaching staff. He was recently named as part of the Slovakian Olympic hockey team, meaning he will be alongside friend and new teammate Zdeno Chara.
Tonight will mark the 41st game of the 82-game season for the Bruins, putting them at exactly the halfway mark.
Lastly, a bit of good karma news on the side of the Black and Gold. The last two teams to win the Winter Classic, the ’08 Penguins and the ’09 Red Wings, have gone on to win the following four games after the Classic victory. They both also went on lengthy playoff runs, ending with losses in the Stanley Cup finals. Just sayin’…