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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Rangers, Sunday March 21st

Fresh off a dismal performance Thursday against Matt Cooke and the Penguins, the Bruins (31-27-12) can’t sleep in today, as they host an early matinee game against Original 6 rival, the New York Rangers (31-31-9).

With just three points separating these two teams for the last playoff spot in the East, it’s hard not to consider today’s tilt a “must-win” for both squads. And, while both Boston and New York have muddled around mediocrity as of late, the resurgent Thrashers have squeezed their way into the playoff picture, snugly between the Bruins and Rangers at the ninth spot, just one point behind Boston, thanks to their 5-2 win over the struggling Flyers Saturday night.

Boston will have a tall task ahead of them this afternoon, looking for their first win of the year against the Blueshirts. Boston has mustered just three goals in the season’s previous three meetings.

Let’s face it, with all of the bracket-busting upsets in the NCAA tournament, why bother paying attention to college hoops anymore? Tune in today and watch what should be an entertaining hockey game with a lot on the line for both teams.

Time to dig in deep and throw some pre-game notes your way…

  • Speaking of watching Bruins hockey, that’s what several of you did Thursday night. The Bruins-Penguins game scored a 6.2 TV rating, the highest rating on NESN for any regular season Bruins game ever. I think most of us wanted those three hours back when all was said and done.
  • Not to harp on Thursday’s brutal loss, but hey, that’s what I’m going to do right now: the 3-0 shutout was the first of the season for Pittsburgh, and they were the last team in the NHL this season to post a shutout. The Penguins hadn’t shut out the Bruins in Boston since Pittsburgh’s first year in the league, which was way back in the ’67-’68 season.
  • OK, enough talking about the past, I’m now focused on the future, a la Mark McGwire. Let’s talk power play. Since Marc Savard’s concussion, the Bruins have just one man-advantage goal in their last six games, and are 0 for their last 14 opportunities. The Rangers haven’t been much better lately, especially on the road where they are a gross 2-for-41 in their last 13 roadies.
  • Speaking of gross (how do you like all these smooth segues today by the way?), the B’s are battling a gross flu bug going around their locker room. The bug bit Johnny Boychuk Thursday, forcing him out of action, while Marco Sturm was limited to just 11 minutes on the ice vs. Pitt as he battled fatigue and flu-like symptoms of his own. Dennis Seidenberg is latest victim to fall at the hands of the flu bug, missing Saturday’s morning skate with the team. It’s too early to tell who we’ll see suit up this afternoon, as all are game-time decisions.
  • In net for New York, you’ll likely see their workhorse, Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes. Lundqvist (28-25-8, 2.47GAA) is 13-3-2 with a 1.36GAA in his career vs. Boston. The Rangers have had five different goaltenders suit up for action this season due to injuries, but their main man backing up Lundqvist is former Bruin Alex Auld (9-7-3, 2.94GAA).
  • Scoring for New York is led by high-flying winger Marian Gaborik (37G, 39A), followed a pair of centers, Vinny Prospal (17G, 36A) and newly acquired Olli Jokinen (13G, 32A).
  • Interesting broadcasting history will be made this week, unrelated to today’s game (which by the way, if you’re looking for it this afternoon, it’s on NBC, not NESN)… Wednesday’s Rangers game vs. the Islanders will be the first NHL game broadcast in 3D. MSG, which televises the majority of the Ranger games in the NYC area, was also the first station to bring HD to hockey, back in 1998.
  • Lastly, we of course want to give a huge shout-out to the Boston College Eagles for their thrilling overtime win over Maine in Saturday night’s Hockey East final at TD Garden. B.C. will now wait to hear where they’re headed for the upcoming NCAA tournament.

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