Despite their recent struggles, the Boston Bruins still are clinging to the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
And they don’t plan to relinquish it.
Boston hopes goaltender Tuukka Rask will be feeling better Sunday as it begins a road-heavy final portion of its schedule against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Bruins (37-25-13) have underachieved for most of this season and are in a tight battle with Ottawa to make an eighth straight playoff appearance. They had a solid effort Saturday, though, scoring three goals in the first period – two from Milan Lucic – to help beat the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers 4-2.
Boston snapped an 0-3-3 stretch and sits one point ahead of the Senators for the last wild-card spot. Ottawa, which has one game in hand and hosts Florida on Sunday, fell 4-3 in overtime to Toronto later Saturday.
"This group in here isn’t going to sit around and sulk about what’s happened so far over 75 games," said defenseman Torey Krug, who had an assist. "We’re going to go out here and finish the right way. It’s just about making sure we take care of our game moving forward."
The Bruins now look to avoid tying a season worst with a fifth straight road loss. They play five of their last seven away from home, including three in four nights to end the season.
”I think everybody’s really committed right now, the way they’re playing and that’s what we have to do,” captain Zdeno Chara said. ”You can feel it and you can sense it.”
Rask stopped all 14 shots against the Rangers, but backup Niklas Svedberg entered 10 seconds into the second period after Rask experienced symptoms of dehydration.
Coach Claude Julien is hoping Rask, who is 2-0-1 with a 0.97 goals-against average in his last three against the Hurricanes, will be available for this matchup.
”He’s scheduled to travel with us, he’s scheduled to be with us and he should be fine for (Sunday),” Julien said. ”We just found out at the beginning of the second (period). I said, `Are you still having those symptoms?’ He said, `Yep.’ So I said, `Let’s get you out of here.”’
Rask made 35 saves in the last meeting with Carolina on Jan. 4, but Eric Staal scored the lone shootout goal to help the Hurricanes (28-36-10) snap a four-game skid to the Bruins with a 2-1 win.
Staal scored the go-ahead goal in the third period Saturday as Carolina beat New Jersey 3-1. He has two goals and four assists during a three-game point streak for the Hurricanes, who have won two straight following an 0-2-2 stretch and will complete a five-game homestand against Boston.
"We talked about it and talked about getting a little sharper and better," Staal said. "As the game went on, we were getting better and better, and you could feel that on the bench. Guys were more confident making plays, and when you do that line after line, it makes it difficult on the other team. We were able to capitalize with some nice goals."
Former Bruin Anton Khudobin could get the start in this contest after Cam Ward made 21 saves Saturday. Khudobin made 19 saves and stopped all three shootout attempts in the last meeting with his former team.