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Rangers head to Boston in must-win affair

by Matthew Mankiewich
RANGERS (31-31-9) at BRUINS (31-27-12)

Last 10 -- New York 4-4-2, Boston 4-5-1.

Season series -- It's a Ranger sweep so far, all three games Blueshirt wins, the last one a 3-1 win at TD Garden Jan. 9. Head-to-head play notwithstanding, the Bruins are one of the worst home teams in the NHL at 14-14-6 and have lost 11 of their last 12 at home. They'll have more chances to correct that problem, as eight of their remaining 12 games are at home. The Rangers have an even worse record at home, but play eight of their final 11 on the road.

Big story -- The race to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference has turned into a game of "hot potato." The Bruins hold it but haven't exactly maintained a stranglehold, the Thrashers and Rangers don't so much pursue as hang around and teams that should have been written off long ago stay in contention simply because no one has pulled away.

While the points are important for both teams here, there's nothing preventing the winner of this game from taking a step back in their next outing and keeping the race close.

Team scope:

Rangers -- Given the firestorm Chris Drury's label of "immaturity" caused, Thursday's game against the Blues represented a chance for John Tortorella's Rangers to prove they could compete in a tight playoff race. Instead, it was St. Louis with the solid team effort, rewarded with a 4-3 win.

It was frustrating enough in the wake of the Habs loss, but when the Bruins lost to Pittsburgh the same night, the squandered opportunity was on all the Rangers' minds.

"Any time we lose this time of the year, it's frustrating," Ryan Callahan said to the New York Daily News. "especially when the Bruins lose. Right now you want to focus on yourself, but it's two points we lost."

Bruins -- Sure, the Rangers' loss to the Blues was a break for the B's, but the fans in TD Garden had other things on their minds Thursday night, booing their team off the ice in the aftermath of what they saw as a lackluster performance in a 3-0 loss to the Penguins, their first shutout in Boston since their inaugural season of 1967-68.

Fired up over the Matt Cooke hit that put Marc Savard out for the season, they took care of that business quickly, but that focus didn't translate into goals or a win.

"We certainly defended our teammate (Savard) well," coach Claude Julien said, "but the other part of the game wasn't there.

"I don't think you can ever be satisfied because you've lost your top goal scorer for the rest of the year. How can you be satisfied that you beat them up? I don't think there's anything that's going to make things right."

Who's hot -- Marian Gaborik's three-point performance against the Blues on Thursday was his second in four games and his eighth of the season.

Injury report -- Savard we know about, but otherwise neither team has significant injuries to report going into Sunday.

Stat pack -- Henrik Lundqvist is 2-3-2 with a 3.16 goals-against average in his last seven games, but is 13-3-2 with a 1.36 GAA lifetime against the Bruins. Gaborik has a goal and an assist against Boston this season. Boston's Marco Sturm has one goal in 14 games against the Rangers.

Since Savard went down, the Boston power play has gone 1-for-16. Six of Savard's 10 goals on the season were with a man up.

Puck drop -- "I think if you go out and play your absolute best, I think you can sit in your locker room and say, 'Okay, we gave it all.' The frustrating part is when you go out there and feel like you could have played better." -- Henrik Lundqvist on the Rangers' loss to the Blues Thursday night

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