Upcoming games: @ Minnesota Wild, March 27, 8:00 p.m.; @ Winnipeg Jets, March 28, 7:00 p.m.; Montreal Canadiens, March 30, 7:30 p.m.; Boston Bruins, April 1, 7:00 p.m.
Minnesota Wild (72 points, 13th place, 31-34-10)
This is the first and only meeting between Marian Gaborik’s Rangers and his former team. The Wild are 3-7-0 in their last ten games. They dropped two games back-to-back this weekend. After falling 3-1 to the Buffalo Sabres Saturday, they were shutout 3-0 by Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals on Sunday. The Wild are 30th in the league in goals scored per game. Though winger Dany Heatley leads the team with 21 goals and 47 points, he recently snapped a career high eight game scoring drought with a goal on Thursday against the Flames. Starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom missed his eleventh game with a lower body injury. Backup Josh Harding has taken up some of the slack in his absence and has won two of his last three starts. Former Rangers on the roster include Jed Ortmeyer and Erik Christensen.
Winnipeg Jets (78 points, 10th place, 35-32-8)
The Rangers are 3-0 against the Jets this season and have outscored them by a margin of 8-1. Henrik Lundqvist shutout the Jets while the Rangers notched a goal in each period to win 3-0 back on January 24. The Jets are 5-5 in their last ten games. Winnipeg didn’t help its cause for making the playoffs by losing 3-1 to the Predators on Saturday. They now sit six points out of eighth place. Though Blake Wheeler leads the team with 60 points, he has just two assists in his last five games. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has lost three of his last five starts.
Montreal Canadiens (71 points, 15th place, 29-34-13)
The Rangers are 1-2 in the season series. They gave up four goals in each of their last two losses to Montreal. The Eastern Conference’s basement dwellers are 4-3-3 in their last ten games. One positive is that they have the second best penalty kill unit in the league with an 88.6% success rate. After a 5-1 victory over the Senators on Friday - in which Erik Cole scored a hat trick in 5:41—the Canadiens lost 4-1 in Philadelphia. The loss officially eliminated them from playoff contention. The long term injured list includes Scott Gomez, captain Brian Gionta, Mathieu Darche and Travis Moen. Max Pacioretty leads the team with 58 points and is tied with Cole with 30 goals. Carey Price is 3-1-1 in his last five starts.
Boston Bruins (2nd place, 91 points, 44-28-3)
Though the Rangers are 3-0 against the B’s, the wins haven’t come easy. Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan both scored tiebreaking goals in the third period to win 4-3 in a see-saw battle on March 4. The Bruins have been shaky especially since losing Tuukka Rask and are 5-5 in their last ten games.The B’s rounded out a three game road trip with two back-to-back wins this weekend. Tim Thomas made 40 saves while Chris Kelly scored the game winner in the 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday for captain Zdeno Chara’s 1,000th NHL game. They also snapped a four game road losing streak with the win. Marty Turco earned his first victory as a Bruin -- and in the NHL in over 13 months-- the following night by making 25 saves in the B’s 3-2 win. Sophomore rookie Tyler Seguin leads the team with 26 goals and 60 points. Gritty forward Brad Marchand who has 25 goals, is one of five Bruins with 20 or more goals this season. Thomas is 32-19-0 this season.