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Rangers' top 'D' pair ready for new task against Bruins

by Dan Rosen

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The one absolute certainty for New York Rangers defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi heading into the Eastern Conference Semifinals is they will not have to target No. 8 on the Boston Bruins the way they did No. 8 on the Washington Capitals.

Hall of Fame forward Cam Neely sits in the press box as Bruins president and his No. 8 sweater has been hanging from the TD Garden rafters since 2004.

But part of the reason the Rangers are playing Game 1 against the Bruins on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) and No. 8 for the Capitals is playing for Russia in the IIHF World Championship is because Girardi and McDonagh shadowed Alex Ovechkin for nearly all of his shifts and helped hold him to no points in the final five games of the seven-game quarterfinal series.

Determining the matchups and the best way to utilize his top two defensemen against the Bruins isn't as cut and dried for Rangers coach John Tortorella.

"They don't have just one dynamic guy," Girardi told

Because of that, it's possible Tortorella won't be matching Girardi and McDonagh against one line or one forward in particular, at least at the start of the series. It's also not out of the realm of possibility that Tortorella breaks up his top pair to get at least one of them on the ice for most of the game.

"At least on the back end you will probably anticipate less matching and hopefully just going out and playing," McDonagh told "That's a good thing too. You like knowing your role at times, knowing who you're going to be going against every game, but at the same time it's nice to just go out and play and get in a rhythm that way, not have to worry about getting on and off the ice. You can get yourself in a rhythm and just play."

Sounds easy enough, but they know it will be anything but because of the different kind of challenges the Bruins' depth creates.

Their top line of David Krejci between Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic is skilled, physical and red-hot. McDonagh said he thinks that may be the line he and Girardi start against.

Krejci led all players in the first round with 13 points on five goals and eight assists, including one on Patrice Bergeron's game-tying goal in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. After a subpar regular season, Lucic had nine points, including the goal that made it 4-3 in Game 7. Horton finished the seven-game series with four goals, seven points and a plus-11 rating. His goal made it 4-2 in Game 7.

"Obviously, I think that line carried the majority of their offense in that series," McDonagh said. "In that aspect, you've got to try to contain them as much as you can. But they have a great second line, third line. They have great depth throughout their lineup. We can't just worry about one line."

He's right about that.

Bergeron leads a second line that includes dynamic forwards Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr. That line woke up in Game 7, when Bergeron scored the tying goal and overtime winner. The Selke Trophy finalist had four points in the series.

Jagr had four assists against the Maple Leafs, and Marchand had three. Nobody in New York doubts Jagr's ability -- they saw it firsthand for three seasons, from 2005-08.

The Bruins' third line, with Chris Kelly, Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley, also has the ability to be dangerous. Their fourth line, with Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille, can grind and coach Claude Julien isn't afraid to use it either.

Paille and Campbell each played more than 10 minutes per game against Toronto.

"Boston does provide a different look with, I've got to say, four good lines," Girardi said. "They like to play their fourth line a lot, and that line gets on the forecheck and creates momentum that way. I think all four of their lines are pretty dangerous, so it's on everybody to make sure we shut it down no matter who we're out there against, kind of like doing the same job, but on everyone.

"I don't know what the pairs are going to be, what the matchups are going to be. No matter who we play against it's going to be a tough task for us."

At least they don't have to worry about No. 8 in black and gold. For that, they're fortunate.


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