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Rangers near full strength for rematch with Bruins

Derek Stepan (21) is congratulated on a first-period

Derek Stepan (21) is congratulated on a first-period goal during the Rangers' 6-2 victory over Dallas at the Garden on Jan. 5. Stepan seems to have recovered fully from broken ribs. Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Derek Stepan’s two cracked ribs have knitted, Chris Kreider’s lacerated right hand is healed enough for him to play, and goaltender Antti Raanta’s stiff back should be loose enough to allow him to back up Henrik Lundqvist against the Bruins at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

It’s the first rematch with Boston since Nov. 27, when Stepan broke the ribs on an unpenalized late hit by Bruins left wing Matt Beleskey in the second period of a 4-3 loss at TD Garden and was sidelined for 10 games.

“I don’t look back at it as anything other than a hockey play,” Stepan said after practice Sunday. “We don’t have any time to worry about what happened in the past. Our focus has to be on the two points we desperately need.”

Stepan was pleased with the team’s overall play as the Rangers took three of the four points against Washington and Dallas, ranked No. 1 and 2 in the league.

“What our group understands is, that’s the way the game needs to be played regardless of the results,” Stepan said. “If we play that way, the results will come in time.”

After a dreary December, there are signs of a turnaround. “We’re 3-2-1 in the last six,” Lundqvist said. The Bruins (21-14-5) are 3-6 in their last nine.

Kreider, who missed two games, was medically cleared and skated on a line with Kevin Hayes at center and Jesper Fast on the right in practice. Oscar Lindberg, who scored against the Capitals, skated as a defenseman so Kreider could get a full practice on the third line, said coach Alain Vigneault, who hadn’t decided on a lineup as of Sunday.

But it appeared that Kreider, who has been erratic this season, will play, with Vigneault citing the team’s need for his net-front presence against the Bruins.

“He’s got to play to his strength; he’s the type of player who has to go into the tough areas and cause trouble,” Vigneault said. “When he does that, he’s a real effective player for us.”

Notes & quotes: The Rangers have scored three goals in the third period in each of the last two games and three times in the last four. They rank third in the NHL with 48 third-period goals . . . Kevin Klein joined Ryan McDonagh on the first defense pair in practice. Dan Girardi was moved down to the third pair.

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