-- In one respect, it's just another regular-season game between two of the League's better teams. On the other hand, the Rangers and Bruins meeting at TD Garden on Tuesday could decide if the Eastern Conference race will be a runaway or go down to the wire.
When these teams met here Jan. 21, the Rangers emerged with a 3-2 overtime victory to cement their status as the East's top team. The Rangers held a two-point lead on the Bruins for the top spot, but had played one more game.
Now, the gap is wider. The Bruins still hold a game in hand, but they trail the Rangers by seven points in the race for the East's top spot. A regulation win Tuesday for the Rangers would give them a massive nine-point edge.
The Rangers and Bruins are two very evenly-matched teams. Let's take a look at some numbers to consider as they square off for the second of four meetings this season:
|14.4 percent, 25th
||18.8 percent, 11th
|NOTE: Looks can be deceiving. The Rangers' power play has been about as bad as it gets this season, but it has been on fire lately, with four goals in 12 chances over the past three games. The Bruins, meanwhile, have just one goal in 11 chances in five February games
|87.2 percent, 5th
||85.1 percent, 7th
|NOTE: This is a virtual wash, as both teams excel when down a man. The Bruins are 11-for-13 on the PK this month; the Rangers are 21-for-24 in their six games in February.
|NOTE: That number indicates each team's goals for/against ratio at 5-on-5, and as you can see, both teams are getting the job done there. But the Bruins have been dominant at times at even strength this season.
||Goals per game
|NOTE: This where the Bruins have the advantage, but it may not be as large as it appears. The Bruins have hung some big numbers on struggling teams this season, inflating their number somewhat. Still, there's no denying the Bruins are the better offensive club.
|NOTE: Again, another evenly matched category, but the Bruins have been leaky recently. They've allowed 37 goals in their last 11 games (3.36 per game). The Rangers have allowed more than two goals twice in their last nine games.
|4 - Marian Gaborik (27), Ryan Callahan (22), Brad Richards (17), Derek Stepan (11)
||7 - Tyler Seguin (20), Milan Lucic (20), Brad Marchand (19), Nathan Horton (17), Patrice Bergeron (16), Chris Kelly (14), David Krejci (11)
|NOTE: Clearly, the Bruins have more offensive weapons, even with Horton sidelined with a concussion. The Rangers possess the most gifted scorer in Gaborik, but Seguin is no slouch.
|Henrik Lundqvist, 26-11-4, 1.81 GAA, .939 save percentage
||Tim Thomas, 23-10-0, 2.18 GAA, .931 save percentage
|NOTE: Remember those jaw-dropping numbers Thomas posted during the first half of last season that had him in the Hart conversation? Lundqvist is posting eerily similar numbers this season. Either way, you can't go wrong with these guys in your net.
|Brandon Prust, Michael Rupp, Stu Bickel
||Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, Gregory Campbell, Adam McQuaid
|NOTE: Thornton and Rupp tangled in the season's first meeting, but there are plenty of options here no matter the weight class. Will Andrew Ference have to answer for his boarding of Ryan McDonagh in overtime that led to the Rangers' winner? Only time will tell.
||Last 10 games
|NOTE: The Bruins were 1:07 away from losing four of their last five before Milan Lucic forced overtime and the Bruins beat the Predators in a shootout Saturday. The Rangers have won three straight and didn't trail during the last two games.
|NOTE: Marian Gaborik has three of the Rangers' seven shootout goals this season, while Brad Richards is 0-for-7. Boston's David Krejci is 3-for-5 and Tyler Seguin is 3-for-7. In net, Henrik Lundqvist has stopped 16 of 22 attempts (.727), while Tim Thomas has stopped 12 of 13 chances (.923).
|Ryan Callahan: 5 goals in 3 games
||Milan Lucic: 2 goals in 3 games
|NOTE: Callahan had a hat trick sandwiched between a pair of one-goal games. Lucic scored the tying goal in final minutes against the Predators on Saturday and also had seven shots in the contest.
* If the Rangers win in regulation, they will hold a nine-point edge on the Bruins for first in the East with 27 games remaining. If the Rangers play .500 hockey (13-13-1) the rest of the way, the Bruins will need to close 18-9-1 (.660) to eclipse the Rangers' 106 points. That's what the Bruins' points percentage is heading into Tuesday's game.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo