Upcoming games: @ Bruins, February 14, 7 p.m.; Blackhawks, February 16, 7 p.m.; Blue Jackets, February 19, 8 p.m.
Boston Bruins (70 points, 2nd place, 34-17-2)
The Rangers beat the Bruins the first time they met this season in January with a nail biting 3-2 overtime win. Marian Gaborik scored on a power play with just over three seconds left in overtime for his second goal of the game. Since the three weeks between when the two teams last faced each other, the Rangers have solidified their hold on first place with a seven point cushion over the second place B’s. The Bruins have the most goals per game in the league with Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic both leading the team with 20 goals. The B’s followed a 6-0 dud they dropped to the Sabres with a 4-3 shootout win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday. Winger Nathan Horton hasn’t played since January 22 with post concussion symptoms. They’re 5-4-1 in their last ten games.
Chicago Blackhawks (65 points, 6th place Western Conference, 29-20-7)
This is the first of two meetings between the Rangers and Hawks in an Original Six matchup this season. The Blackhawks are in desperate need of a win. They’ve lost eight straight games, 10 losses straight on the road and are 2-7-1 in their last ten games. The Hawks were shutout 3-0 by the Coyotes on Saturday. Patrick Kane has just 12 goals so far this season and has just two goals in 16 games. Captain Jonathan Toews who leads the team with 27 goals has just one point in his last five games. Goaltender Corey Crawford is 18-14-5 this season. He hasn’t backstopped the team to a win since January 18 against the Buffalo Sabres.
Columbus Blue Jackets (38 points, 15th place Western Conference, 16-34-6)
The Rangers will face the Blue Jackets for the first and only time this season. Columbus won their only meeting last season 3-1 at Nationwide Arena back on Dec. 11, 2010. The last time the team’s squared off at Madison Square Garden in 2009, New York won 7-4. The league worst Jackets have struggled in just about every category from scoring, goaltending and special teams. Interim coach Todd Richards has been at the helm since Scott Arniel was fired in January. Injuries haven’t helped their cause either. Jeff Carter returned after missing a month with a shoulder injury while defenseman James Wisniewski has three points in his last two games since he missed 17 games with a broken ankle. D-man Radek Martinek is out for the rest of the season with post concussion symptoms. Also nursing injuries is, Marc Methot, Kristian Huselius, Brett Lebda, Jared Boll, Mark Letestu, Nikita Nikitin and goaltender Curtis Sanford. Winger Rick Nash leads the team with 39 points and 18 goals. Former Ranger Vinny Prospal leads the Blue Jackets with 25 assists.