The Boston Bruins are where the New York Rangers want to be with the two Original Six teams preparing for their "Wednesday Night Hockey" game at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).
The Bruins (29-17-7) come to Madison Square Garden holding the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference after a 3-1 home win against the New York Islanders on Tuesday. The Rangers (22-22-8), trail the Bruins by 13 points and are nine behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, who hold the second wild card in the East. However, the Rangers won 3-2 at TD Garden on Jan. 19 and are 8-1-0 in their past nine games against the Bruins.
Here are 5 storylines to watch:
Lundqvist's success against Bruins
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves in the win at Boston 18 days ago, adding to his career-long success against the Bruins. Lundqvist is 28-13-2 in 43 regular-season games against the Bruins; that's more wins than he has against any team outside the Metropolitan Division. He has a 2.00 goals-against average, .934 save percentage and six shutouts against Boston. Lundqvist's numbers this season (16-3-8, 3.04 GAA, .906 save percentage) are on pace to be the poorest of his career. New York hopes his longstanding success against the Bruins will help improve them.
Halak's mastery of Rangers
It's no accident Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy opted to play Tuukka Rask against the Islanders and go with Jaroslav Halak against the Rangers. Not only is Halak on the way to his best season since 2015-16 (13-9-3, 2.49 GAA, .918 save percentage, three shutouts), he has owned the Rangers for most of his career, especially the past four seasons with the New York Islanders. In 27 appearances against the Rangers, he's 18-8-0 with a 2.40 GAA, .928 save percentage and three shutouts -- including a 10-2-0 record from 2014-15 through 2017-18. He did get the loss on Jan. 19 after relieving Rask and is 0-3-1 with a 3.24 GAA and .850 save percentage in his past four starts.
Video: WPG@BOS: Halak flashes the leather on Wheeler
Zibanejad, Zuccarello producing for New York
Center Mika Zibanejad has 52 points (21 goals, 31 assists) in 52 games for the Rangers, the best single-season total of his NHL career. Zibanejad factored into a Rangers-record 10 straight goals before defenseman Adam McQuaid's unassisted goal during the third period of New York's 4-3 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday and also has eight points (four goals, four assists) in a three-game point streak. Linemate Mats Zuccarello is on a tear of his own: He has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in a personal eight-game point streak after managing 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in his first 30 games.
Top line powering Boston
The Bruins' first line of center Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak continues to be one of the best two-way units in the NHL. Bergeron scored twice in the win against the Islanders, which was also his 1,000th NHL game, with Pastrnak and Marchand assisting on each. Pastrnak (64 points; 30 goals, 34 assists), Marchand (59 points; 19 goals, 40 assists) and Bergeron (46 points; 18 goals, 28 assists in 37 games) are Boston's top three scorers; center David Krejci (41 points; 11 goals, 30 assists) is the only other Bruins forward with more than 18 points. The task for Cassidy and general manager Don Sweeney is to find more secondary scoring.
The Rangers and Bruins haven't been in the same division since 1973-74, but there's still no love between two teams that have been battling it out since 1926, when New York joined the NHL. The rivalry grew fierce in the early 1970s, when the Bruins defeated the Rangers in the 1970 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the 1972 Cup Final, then saw their hopes of a repeat ended by New York in the first round the following year. The Rangers have played more regular-season games (647) and have more victories (258) against Boston than any other team. The Bruins' 122 wins at New York are their most on the road against any opponent. The old rivals see each other three times a season now, a big drop from the later days of the Original Six (14 times), but there's still plenty of dislike to go around.