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Rangers face stingy Bruins twice this week

Chris Higgins (four goals) is one of several

Chris Higgins (four goals) is one of several Rangers who have struggled to score this season. (December 30, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

Just what the goal-starved Rangers need: two games in six days against Boston, one of the stingiest teams in the league.

The Bruins, who visit the Garden Monday night and host the Rangers Saturday, have allowed 95 goals in 40 games, the third fewest in the Eastern Conference and fifth fewest overall.

The saving grace is that without Phil Kessel, who was traded to Toronto and has 14 goals in 30 games, the Bruins (21-12-7) are similar to the Rangers when it comes to offense. They have scored only 105 goals, three fewer than the Rangers, who have played one more game.

Naturally, the final score of the first meeting between the two teams, on Nov. 1, was what you might expect: 1-0, with Marian Gaborik (who else?) the lone Ranger to find the net.

The Rangers (19-17-5) have been dismal at the Garden, losing eight of the last nine (1-5-3) and earning five points out of a possible 18. With 43 points at the midway mark, they are eighth in the East. Last season, 92 points was the cutoff for the postseason.

So a critical issue is to improve their record at the Garden, where they are 8-10-3 and play four of the next six.

"It's just a matter of readiness," coach John Tortorella said. "You know what? The [Garden fans] are knowledgeable and they come down pretty hard on you. You've got to be able to handle that, too. You make your own bed with this stuff.

"You've got to be able to handle some of the stuff that goes on in this building. That's where I think we fluctuate a little bit and get even further in the hole. We've got to fight through this part of it. I look at our record, and if we just took care of a little bit of business here at home, we're in a pretty good spot."

Notes & quotes: Goalie Chad Johnson, 23, won back-to-back games for Hartford over the weekend. He made 23 saves in the Wolfpack's 3-2 win over Bridgeport Saturday and allowed one goal in a 2-1 shootout win over Syracuse Sunday. He is likely to be recalled this week.

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