***spoiler alert: looks like clowesey and powesey are still injured***
Season series: The New York Rangers and Boston Bruins met three times during the regular season, but haven't played since Feb. 12. Boston beat New York on opening night at TD Garden, 3-1. The Rangers won the next two meetings, including 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 23, when Marian Gaborik completed his hat trick with the overtime winner 27 seconds into the extra session. New York also pulled out a 4-3 shootout win on Feb. 12.
Big story: New York and Boston have rivalries in just about every sport, and the two cities typically see each other at playoff time (Knicks vs. Celtics, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Giants vs. Patriots in the Super Bowl), but this is the first time since 1973 the Rangers and Bruins have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That series, won by the Rangers, was a rematch of the 1972 Stanley Cup Final, which was won by the Bruins.
Beyond their history, or lack thereof in the playoffs, the Rangers and Bruins enter the Eastern Conference Semifinals on a high. The Rangers came back from a 3-2 series deficit to beat the Washington Capitals, playing their best in a Game 7, 5-0 blowout. The Bruins pulled off a near miracle in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs to avoid fully blowing a 3-1 series lead.
Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist enters the series with a shutout streak of 120 minutes. He did not allow a goal in either Game 6 or 7 against the Capitals after giving up the overtime winner to Mike Ribeiro in Game 5.
Rangers coach John Tortorella also appeared to find some line combinations he likes and he used those in practice Wednesday. That includes a big, physical third line of Brian Boyle between Derek Dorsett and Taylor Pyatt that likely will have to be effective against the big Bruins.
Tortorella also said he expects Rick Nash to be factor against the Bruins. He didn't have a goal against Washington.
"He played really well in Game 7 and really didn't have many bad games in the seven-game series in Washington," Tortorella said of Nash. "He didn't finish. He certainly wasn't totally on. But he's very close and I thought he played really well in Game 7. So, yeah, he's playing, and I think he's going to be a really big part of this as we enter into Boston."
Bruins: Boston has its own injury problems and they are decimating the Bruins’ blue line.
Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden didn't practice Wednesday. Their availability for Game 1 is in doubt, leaving open the strong possibility that rookies Matt Bartkowski, Torrey Krug and Dougie Hamilton will play. Bartkowski and Hamilton played in Game 7 against Toronto, and Krug was recalled from the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League on Tuesday.
"This is going to be amazing," Krug said.
Bruins coach Claude Julien appears ready to pair each of the rookies with a veteran defenseman. In practice Wednesday, he had Zdeno Chara with Hamilton, Johnny Boychuk with Bartkowski, and Adam McQuaid with Krug.
However, Julien didn't rule out the possibility his injured veteran defensemen could play in Game 1.
"There are injuries, there's no hiding that fact, except that sometimes you can get players through those and sometimes you can't," Julien said. "Sometimes it's better not to practice and just to play. We're going to look at that situation."
Who's hot: Rangers forward Derick Brassard had nine points over the final five games against the Capitals. ... Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron scored the two most clutch goals of Boston's season in Game 7: the game-tying goal in the dying moments of regulation and the overtime winner.
Injury report: The Rangers have Staal (eye), Clowe (undisclosed) and Powe (undisclosed) on the sidelines. … The Bruins are missing Ference (lower body), Seidenberg (undisclosed) and Redden (undisclosed). Ference has been spotted wearing a walking boot.