The top two teams in the Eastern Conference are set to meet for a third time this season, and a nationally-televised audience awaits.
The New York Rangers, who have a 10-point lead atop the East, will host the No. 2 Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN2, RDSI). New York still has the double-digit edge thanks to Boston's 3-2 loss on home ice against the New York Islanders on Saturday.
The Bruins will likely be without both goaltender Tuukka Rask and forward Daniel Paille, both of whom left Saturday's game with injuries. Rask reportedly left TD Garden on crutches after suffering an undisclosed leg injury in the second period. Paille left in the third due to an undisclosed injury.
Nonetheless, the Bruins must put their best foot forward if they hope to close the gap on the Blueshirts, who blew a 2-0 lead but picked up a point in a 4-3 overtime loss at Tampa Bay on Friday.
"It's difficult when guys -- key guys -- are out of the lineup," said Bruins forward Milan Lucic, whose team is also within regulars Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley. "We've had key guys out of the lineup in the past, in the past few seasons, and it's given an opportunity for other guys to step up. Not pointing fingers at anyone; it's a group effort. Everyone has to step up a little bit more and do a little bit more and try to fill that void."
Boston erased a 2-1 deficit against the Isles on Tyler Seguin's 22nd goal of the season at 7:29 of the third period. But John Tavares restored New York's lead with 4:39 remaining and the Isles hung on in the final minute to deny Boston any points in the standings. The Bruins know they'll need to be on top of their game if they hope to gain ground on the first-place Rangers at MSG.
"We have to do the same thing the Islanders did to us tonight – play a really solid road game, not giving them much," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "And we just have to go out and be the hunters, be the ones that play a strong physical game and getting pucks behind them and pucks on net."
Saturday's loss once again denied the Bruins back-to-back victories. Boston hasn't won two in a row since Jan. 10-12. That stretch includes two losses to the Rangers, including a 3-0 loss at home on Feb. 14.
The Bruins profess not to be worried about their inconsistent play.
"We're fine. We're definitely fine," defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. "Once we get those goals, nobody will be saying anything about how you're going to get two wins in a row. We'll just be a contender again. And we are. Everybody's confident in this room that we can do it again."
One positive for the Rangers was that captain Ryan Callahan skated at Saturday's practice after sitting out games Thursday and Friday with a bruised right foot that prevented him from putting on his skate. He was injured while blocking a shot in Monday's 2-0 win against New Jersey.
Coach John Tortorella wouldn't commit to having Callahan in the lineup, but said it was a good sign that he was able to skate.
"Yeah," Tortorella said. "I'm not sure where it stands but he wants to play."