RANGERS (32-19-6) at MAPLE LEAFS (20-26-9)
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; MSG, TSN4, NHL.TV
TORONTO - It has not been the dream season Jonathan Bernier hoped for.
Yet, the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender was all smiles as he prepared to play his 200th NHL game, against the New York Rangers at Air Canada Centre on Thursday.
"Every game is an opportunity for you to prove yourself and at the same time I feel like in my last few games, except the game in Edmonton, I was back on track," Bernier said. "I just want to keep going in the same direction and not really look at the result, but keep working hard. I think that is the only thing I can do."
Bernier started the season as the Maple Leafs No. 1 goaltender, but lost the job to James Reimer. At one point, Bernier was sent to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League on a conditioning stint. He was 3-0-1 with three shutouts with the Marlies.
Toronto coach Mike Babcock said Bernier must seize the opportunity presented to him.
"He has to make the first save tonight and then make the second save," Babcock said, "and the other thing is, it doesn't matter what year you are at in your career or what stage you are at, if you play good today, everything is OK. Then you come back and do it tomorrow. It is amazing how you can reel a season in even when it hasn't started on time."
Babcock said the starter's job is up for grabs on a daily basis.
"These two guys are in competition," Babcock said. "If you play good, you get to play again. If you win, you get to play again. The ball is in [Bernier's] court. Any time someone gives you a chance to get your job back, you'd better grab it. He knows that."
Bernier said he does not look at the standings at this stage of the season, preferring to concentrate on his own game.
"Every day I am trying to work hard on my game and make sure I stay ready," Bernier said. "Even if you don't play a lot, it is a matter of staying sharp mentally, and that's what I am trying to do.
"Every time you step in there you want to prove yourself to others that you can have a good game. You want to give your team a chance and hopefully you can come out of it with a win."
The Maple Leafs are playing their first home game since Feb. 4, following a five-game road trip during which they went 1-4-0.
The Rangers, who did not skate Thursday after arriving in Toronto at 3 a.m., are coming off a 5-3 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. It was the Rangers' first home defeat in regulation since Dec. 20.
"You just have to forget it," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said Wednesday. "It doesn't matter win or lose, you move on and you start over tomorrow. I think you analyze this one quickly. I thought we played a really strong game, it's just their power play killed us. Five-on-five, our power play, it was really good."
Here are the projected lineups:
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello
J.T. Miller - Derick Brassard - Jesper Fast
Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - Viktor Stalberg
Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Daniel Paille
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Kevin Klein
Keith Yandle - Dan Boyle
Injured: Rick Nash (bone bruise)
Scratched: Dylan McIlrath
Michael Grabner - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
Peter Holland - Mark Arcobello - PA Parenteau
Daniel Winnik - Nick Spaling - Brad Boyes
Colin Greening - Byron Froese - Rich Clune
Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly
Jake Gardiner - Roman Polak
Martin Marincin - Frank Corrado
Injured: Stephane Robidas (lower body), Joffrey Lupul (middle body), James van Riemsdyk (foot fracture), Jared Cowen (hip tightness), Josh Leivo (upper body), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Shawn Matthias (upper body).
Scratched: Brendan Leipsic, Viktor Loov.
Status report: Staal missed the game Wednesday to attend the birth of his daughter, Emily Jennifer … The Maple Leafs recalled Loov, a defenseman, from the AHL on an emergency basis.
Who's hot: Hayes has three goals and five points in four games … Brassard has scored in back-to-back games … Stepan has three goals and five points in four games … Yandle has assists in four consecutive games … Parenteau has a goal and three points in two games … Gardiner has two goals and four points in four games … Arcobello has three goals in two games.