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GAME DAY: Blueshirts Visit B's on Black Friday

Lundqvist Leads Streaking Rangers Against NHL's Hottest Team

by Michael Obernauer

RANGERS at BRUINS, 1 pm
NHL Thanksgiving Showdown
TD Garden
NBC, 98.7 FM

GAME DAY
When the Blueshirts take their three-game winning streak into Boston on Friday afternoon, they will put it up against the only team in the League with a longer streak than theirs, and their quest for a fourth in a row will encounter its toughest test yet.

The Rangers will play in the NHL Thanksgiving Showdown on Friday afternoon for the sixth time in the last seven years - all of them in Boston or Philadelphia. This time, their Black Friday opponent has rattled off five consecutive wins, with points in each of its last nine games, has two of the League's top four scorers and sits atop the NHL standings with 39 points.

"Listen," David Quinn said, "you're talking about right now the best team in the National Hockey League, the way they're rolling."

But Quinn's Rangers come to town looking to build on a run of their own, with wins in three straight and points in 10 of their last 14 (9-4-1), as they aim to become the first team to hand the Bruins a regulation loss on home ice. At the moment they are getting the best hockey of the season from players up and down their lineup, including Henrik Lundqvist, who will take his third straight start on Friday afternoon after winning his last two at Madison Square Garden.

Lundqvist will play his 873rd regular-season game for the Rangers, tying Chicago great Tony Esposito for the second-most games played for one franchise.

It is unclear whether the goaltender and the Rangers will have to face Patrice Bergeron in this one; the Boston center did not accompany the Bruins on their two-game trip to Canada this week because of a recurrence of a lower-body injury and his status was unknown into Friday morning.

Bergeron was all over these teams' first meeting this season, on Oct. 27 at the Garden. He scored his fifth career hat trick, but left his mark more conspicuously on the Rangers with a hit on Mika Zibanejad near the end of the first period that wound up knocking the Blueshirts' No. 1 center out of action for a month. That hit happened near the end of the first period in a 1-0 game; by the time 68 seconds had been played in the second, it was 3-0 and the Bruins were on their way to a 7-4 win.

Zibanejad returned to the Rangers' lineup win Wednesday night's win over Carolina - he scored a goal 2:54 into his return - which is one of many reasons Quinn feels the team he brings into Beantown on Friday is unlike the one the Bruins saw a month ago.

"We are a different team for sure," Quinn said on Thursday. "I think you look at how Fox is playing, look how Lindgren's playing, look how DeAngelo's playing, look how Chytil's playing. We have Mika back. Buchnevich is playing better. Strome and Panarin are playing better. We're a better hockey team."

"Having Mika back is huge for us. But I think we've grown a little more consistent," said Adam Fox. "(The Bruins) are a great team, they got a lot of depth and obviously that top line is pretty dominant. So this should be a good test for us."

Fil Chytil and Ryan Lindgren are two players seeing Boston for the first time this season: They received their call-ups from Hartford on Oct. 28, the day after the Bruins were at the Garden. Chytil has scored seven times in 14 games since then and taken leaps and bounds as a center, while Lindgren - Boston's second-round Draft pick in 2016 -- has done nothing but add to his coaches' confidence in him while paired with Fox virtually the entire month he's been up.

And then there is Fox, who scored a goal and an assist and was all over the ice in Wednesday's win against the Hurricanes, pushing his point streak to three games, and who returns to Boston for the first time since leaving Harvard after three years playing for the Crimson. He returns to the rink where he put up six points in six Beanpot games, in which the Crimson went 4-2. "I've had some good games in that building, and some tough losses too. I'm really excited to go back," Fox said.

Bergeron is not the only Bruin dealing with injury, but Boston remains otherwise intact at the top of the lineup, where David Pastrnak (23-16--39) is the League's leading goal scorer and sits right behind Brad Marchand (18-25--43) in the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in NHL scoring, behind only Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.

Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, is up among the League leaders in wins (12), GAA (2.10), save percentage (.931), and shutouts (2), and is expected to oppose Lundqvist looking to build on his own personal five-game winning streak. Quinn said Alexandar Georgiev would get the nod when the Blueshirts close out this matinee back-to-back in Saturday in New Jersey.


PROJECTED LINEUPS

RANGERS
20 Kreider - 93 Zibanejad - 89 Buchnevich
10 Panarin - 72 Chytil - 16 Strome
48 Lemieux - 21 Howden - 24 Kakko
42 Smith - 15 Nieves - 17 Fast

76 Skjei - 8 Trouba
55 Lindgren - 23 Fox
25 Hajek - 77 DeAngelo

30 Lundqvist
40 Georgiev

BRUINS
63 Marchand - 46 Krejci - 88 Pastrnak
74 DeBrusk - 68 Studnicka - 13 Coyle
10 Bjork - 52 Kuraly - 43 Heinen
20 Nordstrom - 26 Lindholm - 14 Wagner

33 Chara - 73 McAvoy
47 Krug - 25 Carlo
48 Grzelcyk - 75 Clifton

40 Rask
41 Halak


NUMBERS GAME

The Blueshirts are 9-3 in their last 12 games against the B's, 4-1 on the road.

Henrik Lundqvist is 28-14-2 in his career against Boston, with a 2.15 GAA and .929 save percentage, which is the highest save percentage in League history of any goaltender who has faced the Bruins at least 30 times.

Lundqvist has won three of his last four starts and has stopped 97 of 102 shots in the three wins. 

Rangers defensemen have accounted for 27.3% of the team's goals and 31.9% of the team's points, the highest percentages in the NHL.

The Rangers are 9-1-1 when Adam Fox has a point.

The Bruins are the NHL's last team without a regulation loss at home, where they are 9-0-4, the second-longest home-ice points streak to start a season in franchise history. The B's started the 1973-74 season 19-0-2 at home. 

During their five-game winning streak, Boston has scored five or more goals three times, including an 8-1 runaway in Montreal on Tuesday.

Boston is 4-0-2 vs. the Metropolitan Division.

David Pastrnak and Connor McDavid are the only NHL players with multiple hat tricks this season, and the Bruins and Oilers are the only teams with three.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Pavel Buchnevich, returning to the place where he scored his first NHL goal on Nov. 5, 2016, has 4-4--8 in eight career games against the Bruins, and with 18 points is tied for third on the Rangers in scoring this season.

Brad Marchand, third in the NHL with 43 points, has five goals and six assists during the Bruins' five-game winning streak. Marchand has 8-15--23 in 30 career games against the Blueshirts.

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