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Preview: Rangers at Bruins

Defenseman Brendan Smith to make New York debut; Boston 7-1-0 under coach Bruce Cassidy

by Matt Kalman / NHL.com Correspondent

RANGERS (40-21-2) at BRUINS (33-24-6)

7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NESN, MSG, NHL.TV 

 

Rangers team scope

Defenseman Brendan Smith will make his New York Rangers debut. The Rangers acquired Smith in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday for a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2018. "I'm excited to be on a good team that's in the playoff hunt," Smith told the New York Post after practice Wednesday. "I love playoff hockey, so it's an exciting time to come to a good team like this." The Rangers, who have lost their past two games and are two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division, will have several game-time lineup decisions because of injuries. Forward Chris Kreider sustained a lower-body injury in that game and didn't practice Wednesday. "I'm thinking that [Kreider will] be all right [for Thursday]," coach Alain Vigneault said Wednesday. Forward Michael Grabner (hip) left practice Wednesday with an injury and is day-to-day. Forward Mika Zibanejad practiced one day after he was a late scratch against the Capitals because of a wrist/hand injury. One player who's definitely out is forward Jesper Fast, who will miss 2-3 weeks with an upper-body injury sustained in a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start. The Rangers have won their past two road games and are 21-8-0 away from Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist is one win from tying Grant Fuhr (403) for 10th place on the NHL's all-time list.

 

Bruins team scope

The Boston Bruins are 7-1-0 since Bruce Cassidy took over as coach Feb. 7, and are tied in points with the Ottawa Senators for second place in the Atlantic Division, though Ottawa has two games in hand. The Bruins acquired forward Drew Stafford in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2018 draft. Stafford will not play Thursday. "They've worked hard to get themselves into the position we're in," Cassidy said. "So for their sake ... I'd like to keep the group together and we've added a good piece. We'll see where [Stafford] fits in and hopefully makes us a better team." The Bruins have won four straight at home and are 16-13-0 at TD Garden, but lost two early-season games to the Rangers, who won 5-2 at home on Oct. 26 and 5-2 in Boston on Nov. 5. "An extremely fast team. They're very deep as well, especially up front," defenseman Torey Krug said. "They put you back on your heels so we've got to clog up the neutral zone to make sure they can't come at us with too much speed. We know that throughout the game they're going to get their chances. It's a sign of a good team. But for us it's about limiting that and making sure they're not Grade A chances."

 

Rangers projected lineup

J.T. Miller -- Derek Stepan -- Rick Nash

Chris Kreider -- Mika Zibanejad -- Mats Zuccarello

Jimmy Vesey -- Kevin Hayes -- Michael Grabner

Brandon Pirri -- Oscar Lindberg -- Matt Puempel

Ryan McDonagh -- Brendan Smith

Marc Staal -- Nick Holden

Brady Skjei -- Adam Clendening

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Pavel Buchnevich

Injured: Jesper Fast (upper body), Dan Girardi (ankle), Kevin Klein (back)

 

Bruins projected lineup

Brad Marchand -- Patrice Bergeron -- David Backes

Peter Cehlarik -- David Krejci -- David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano -- Ryan Spooner -- Jimmy Hayes

Matt Beleskey -- Dominic Moore -- Riley Nash

Zdeno Chara -- Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug -- Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller -- Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: Tim Schaller, Joe Morrow, John-Michael Liles, Drew Stafford

Injured: None

 

Status report

Buchnevich was recalled from Hartford of the American Hockey League on Thursday. ... Beleskey will play after being a healthy scratch the past two games.

 

Who's hot

Miller has 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in his past 14 games. … Marchand has 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) in his past 13 games. Pastrnak has 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in his past 10 games. Rask is 5-1-0 with 12 goals allowed and one shutout in his past six starts.

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