With four games left, it’s clear that New York Rangers coach
John Tortorella and Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien can’t wait
for the postseason to start.
The Rangers have won the first three 2011-12 matchups between
these playoff-bound teams heading into Sunday night’s contest at
Madison Square Garden, where the Bruins could clinch the Northeast
Division title if they haven’t already by the time they take the
New York (50-21-7) leads Pittsburgh by five points in the race
for the Atlantic Division title and the top seed in the Eastern
Conference. The Rangers, winners of four straight, are also in
contention with St. Louis and Vancouver for the Presidents’ Trophy,
but that doesn’t much matter to their coach.
“It doesn’t mean squat. I will tell you right now it means
absolutely nothing,” Tortorella said. “It’s about how we’re
playing as we go through these next four games against tough
opponents. It’s about our game going into the playoffs. You get
measured by the playoffs.”
Boston (46-28-4) enters MSG on a 6-1-1 surge after Saturday’s
6-3 road win over the Islanders. The Bruins lead Ottawa by six
points in the Northeast.
The Senators will be eliminated from division title contention
if they fail to get any points Sunday afternoon against the
Islanders. Boston will clinch the division Sunday by matching or
exceeding how many points Ottawa earns.
Julien, though, is focusing on his team’s recent strong play as
opposed to the standings.
“It’s about picking up your game at the right time,” Julien
said. “We hope to peak when the playoffs are around. We’re trying
to play our best hockey heading into the playoffs.”
The Rangers have won nine of their last 11 against the Bruins,
including all three meetings in 2011-12. Henrik Lundqvist has
posted a 1.62 goals-against average while starting every game of
the season series.
Tim Thomas has started twice against Lundqvist this season,
compiling a 3.53 GAA. Thomas is set to be between the pipes Sunday
after Julien gave veteran Marty Turco the nod Saturday on Long
The Bruins are eager to measure themselves one final time
against the team with the East’s best record.
“I wanna get ready for the playoffs and it’s a great test for
myself and it’s a great test for my team,” Boston top scorer Tyler
Seguin said. “We haven’t done the greatest against them this year.
Hopefully we can show what we can bring in maybe a couple weeks in
the playoffs as well.”
Seguin and second-leading scorer Patrice Bergeron have been
limited to no goals and one assist against the Rangers this season.
They combined for five points Saturday.
The Bruins are 0 for 8 on the power play against the Rangers,
who enter with their power-play unit on a roll. New York is 4 for 9
with the man advantage in its last two games.
“With the skill we have, we’re going to be able to score
goals,” said defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who has five points in
the last two games. “You see just the way we’re moving the puck,
we’re moving bodies.”
Marian Gaborik has a team-high three goals against Boston this
season, with Del Zotto and Brad Richards each contributing
team-bests of three assists.