GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The Rangers have beaten the Bruins three times in this wildly uneven season. But today's final matchup between the teams, a matinee at TD Garden in Boston, has enormous significance for both.
With 74 points and a game in hand, the eighth-place Bruins can deliver a serious blow to the Rangers chances to claim a berth in the postseason with a regulation win. Those two points would push the Rangers, who have lost two straight, five points out the Eastern Conference cutoff with 10 games left.
For the Rangers, with 71 points, two points in regulation would lift them to within a point of the Bruins; an overtime win would leave them four points away and with a formidable task ahead.
"Tomorrow is a must-have game," Brandon Dubinsky said. "It's Game Seven, that's all there is to it."
The Bruins, who are without leading scorer Marc Savard (concussion, injured reserve), have not been dominant at home (14-14-6). But the Rangers have been worse at Madison Square Garden (15-16-6), so a game on the road, where the Rangers are 16-14-3, isn't necessarily a damning negative.
"We've felt pretty good on the road . . . but it's going to be a grind, it's going to be a battle," said Dubinsky, who will be on the left of Erik Christensen and Marian Gaborik Sunday. "They've got last year's Vezina Trophy winner [Tim Thomas] and we've got a three-time Vezina finalist (Henrik Lundqvist). Goals are so important."
Lundqvist is 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals against average, a .966 save percentage and one shutout against Boston this season. Tuukka Rask, who played in the 3-2 Bruins loss, is expected to be in the net. The Finnish goaltender is 2-2 in his last four starts and allowed no goals in relief of Thomas in another.
Coach John Tortorella will make a decision Sunday on his healthy scratches: Aaron Voros and Enver Lisin, who have not dressed for three straight games, practiced Saturday. Voros could be in for Sean Avery; Lisin might get an opportunity if Jody Shelley sits.
"[Jokinen] can play both," Tortorella said. "I still think Yokes has a little work to do away from the puck. He didn't play badly last game, we'll see where it goes, I have my thoughts."
Tortorella downplayed the do-or-die scenario, but acknowledged the importance of the game. "It's doubled up because it's the team we're chasing," he said, and that although he was "glad we're 3-0" against the Bruins this season, the record wouldn't impact the game.
"You don't want to get too convoluted," he said. "We're isolating games. We want to try play our best game."
As for any extra confidence thanks to their wins over Boston, he said: "It depends on the individual, what an individual player needs to use . . . because we're there."
Notes & quotes: Christensen has two of the seven goals against the Bruins. Dubinsky, Gaborik and Michael Del Zotto have one each. Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins, now in Calgary, had the others . . . The Rangers last swept the season series from the Bruins in 2006-07 . . . According to the press notes, the Rangers are 6-0-1 in afternoon games this season.