It's just another game between the East-leading New York Rangers
and second-place Boston Bruins
That's the stance both sides are taking heading into Tuesday night's game at TD Garden. The Rangers have played one more game than the Bruins and hold a seven-point lead in the standings. A regulation win by the Rangers wouldn't clinch the East with 25 games to play, but it would be a huge mountain for the Bruins to climb.
"I don't think we're necessarily looking at this game like we need to catch up to these guys more than we need to play well to give us a chance to win the game -- it's as simple as that," Bruins coach Claude Julien
said. "Right now, our issues are a lot different than worrying about how far ahead they are or how much we need to catch up. We just have to go out there and play and if we play well and do the job we know we can, hopefully we can come up with a win and the rest will take care of itself."
The Rangers are taking the same tact -- they don't care how many points they are ahead of the Bruins, they just want to play their game. The last time the Rangers came to Boston they won 3-2 in overtime on Jan. 21 to turn a one-point lead in the East into a two-point edge.
The gap is wider now, but nothing is changing as far as the approach.
"I think we've done a pretty good job of trying to focus on the task at hand," Rangers forward Brian Boyle
said. "We've got 20 games left where a lot can go on, where teams are going to catch fire. A lot can happen, you know? Right now, we're just trying to put one foot in front of the other. From a preparation standpoint, from what they think of us, I don't know. I don't really care. That's what they need to worry about. We're just trying to prepare for them and get our game ready."
The Rangers scored the winning goal thanks to Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference
taking a major boarding penalty against defenseman Ryan McDonagh
in overtime. Marian Gaborik
scored in the waning seconds to win it, but neither team feels Ference's hit will be something that will carry over to this game.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of big saves by the goaltenders," McDonagh said when asked what he's expecting against the Bruins, who will start Tim Thomas
against the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist
. "We're just going to play our system and our structure and get our forecheck going and grind them out."
The grinding style has been a hallmark of the Rangers the past three seasons since Tortorella arrived, and now it's yielding more success than ever. Combining that style with the physical one the Bruins play, and it's a mixture the Rangers relish.
"That's just the way we play," Tortorella said. "That's the way we have the best opportunity to win hockey games. That's been part of us building that identity for the past couple years. There's no secrets at all. That's the way we're built a little bit, and that's how we've developed our identity."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo