February 03, 2015

Boston's swing through California yielded zero points, knocked the Bruins further back in the Atlantic Division race and possibly cost them their goaltender for another crucial road contest.

The New York Rangers will take any potential advantage they can get as they battle for home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

It's uncertain if Tuukka Rask will be available when the Bruins try to avoid a season-worst four-game slide Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Bruins (39-26-8) are three points behind in the division title race after scoring three times in losses to San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Tyler Randell scored unassisted in the second period of Saturday's loss to the Kings, but that came after Boston surrendered goals in the last minute of the first and within the first three minutes of the second.

With Boston now behind both Florida and Tampa Bay, it would start the playoffs on the road against one of those two if nothing changes. The Bruins host the Panthers on Thursday in their only home game over the course of a nine-game stretch that began with the California trip.

''They are good teams for a reason. Down the road, that's what we're going to face, and we have to make sure we're ready for that kind of hockey,'' said Patrice Bergeron, who has gone without a point in four straight. "It's not going to be easy and we have to keep pushing forward and get better. We know the standings are tight and it's up to us."

Rask faced only 20 shots against the Kings, but the puck hit him in a spot with little padding during one save and "knocked the wind" out of him. He missed practice Tuesday with an undisclosed issue, although its uncertain if the problem stems from Saturday's incident.

Jonas Gustavsson, who lost 4-0 to Anaheim on Friday, likely would get the start if Rask can't go against the Rangers (41-24-8). The Bruins recalled Jeremy Smith from the minors to be the backup if necessary and also added AHL leading goal scorer Frank Vatrano in Tuesday's transactions.

Henrik Lundqvist had a rough Saturday as well while giving up four goals on 47 shots in a loss to San Jose, but he bounced back with 25 saves in New York's 4-2 win over Florida on Monday.

The Rangers have a two-point lead for second place in the Metropolitan despite going 1-2-2 in their previous five.

''We were confident,'' Tanner Glass said after scoring in the empty net Monday. ''We knew we had to come back with a big win. I think we played hard all night. It wasn't perfect. No game is. I thought we battled hard.''

Rick Nash scored his first goal in six games since returning from a leg injury that kept him out for the previous seven weeks. He's not back to full strength yet, but he should be by the time the playoffs begin.

''It's no secret (that) it's been a grind the first five games after a long time away,'' Nash said. ''Each game I'm just trying to do something to help the team and try to fit in.''

Lundqvist made 32 saves in the Rangers' 2-1 home win over the Bruins in the most recent meeting Jan. 11 after losing nine of his previous 10 starts against them, including the playoffs.

Boston has won 10 of the previous 12 matchups, including a 4-3 victory Nov. 27 behind a goal and an assist from Bergeron.

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