April 4, 2011

Bruins ready for Lundqvist, desperate Rangers

by Jesse Connolly

Mark Recchi skates away from Rangers forward Alex Frolov. (Getty)

With just four games left in the regular season, the Bruins will take on the toughest of their remaining foes tonight at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers will be desperate for a victory, as they're currently clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"They're fighting for their lives so there's some desperation on their end of it," coach Claude Julien said. "They want to keep their spot in the playoffs. We understand that there's a possibility that we meet these guys. We need to make sure we're ready to go here tonight."

New York has won two of the three matchups against Boston, consistently stifling the Bruins attack with sound defense -- highlighted by a bevy of blocked shots.

"They're a great fore-checking team and they come at you hard," Julien said of the Rangers. "You've got to get pucks in deep and you've got to make sure you get pucks to the net through traffic.

"They've got a great goaltender (Henrik Lundqvist) who, when you do get momentum, is able to sustain that pressure a lot of the times and keep them in the game. We've got to figure out a way of getting through to him and playing more in their end than ours."

Of course, the Black and Gold have a pretty stellar netminder of their own in Tim Thomas, whose unorthodox style is in complete contrast to Lundqvist's approach between the pipes.

"He's not that typical goaltender that's going to butterfly," Julien said of Thomas. "His competitive level is outstanding. He's very athletic and that makes him a great goaltender. He relies a lot on his reflexes and his quickness, and it's served him well. Looking good is one thing, but results are even better. That's what we gage ourselves on."

Asked if Thomas has been their MVP this season, Julien said that it's a common trend across the league for goaltenders to be their team's most important player.

"I think he'd have to be a real strong candidate for us in regards to that," the coach said. "I think goaltenders seem to be the focus of that a lot of times because they're the last wall there. With scoring as stingy as it has been, goaltenders make a difference in the game."

Boston will be without the services of Shawn Thornton, as the winger remains sidelined after being cut by a skate-blade in a game against the Blackhawks six days ago.

"He skated this morning but he still has the visor and I don't think we're 100 percent confident medically right now," said Julien. "If those stitches were to pop out, it'd be a bit of a risky situation. I think if we were in the playoffs today, he'd be in there no doubt."

One winger the B's will be looking for some contributions from, however, is rookie Tyler Seguin. The 19-year-old forward has gone eight-straight games without a point and has just one in the last 16 tilts.

"I think there's still some time to see that here," Julien said when asked if Seguin will be in the lineup for the playoffs. "I'm not going to say whether he's in or whether he's out. I think we're going to keep seeing him play, but in the last month he's taken more strides and become more confident in his game. That's a good sign."