- James Murphy, Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- The Bruins will host the Rangers for the second time in 2013, and it will already be the third time these Eastern Conference powers have met in this shortened 48-game NHL season. The Bruins won 3-1 in the Jan. 19 season opener at TD Garden and then lost 4-3 in overtime at Madison Square Garden four days later.
One of the positives of the Bruins being off to their best 10-game start in franchise history at 8-1-1 is that they haven’t had any easy games. So far, every game has been grinding and has tested their fortitude, and they welcome another challenge like that in the Rangers.
"This is a team that when you play them -- and there's certain teams in our conference that really test your character -- and both teams [Rangers and Bruins] are really big teams,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “Both teams like to work along the walls and like the gritty game. Both teams compete hard and it certainly makes you a better team by the end of the night if you're willing to take that challenge."
Forward Chris Kelly concurred, and thinks that’s why the Bruins are in a good position as the schedule gets busier.
"When you're playing close games, you're forced to play 60 minutes," Kelly pointed out. "If you go into the third period and you're up by three or four, you tend to lay off a little bit. You play a good 40 minutes and so-so 20 minutes. But because most of our games have been so close we've had no choice but to battle right to the end, and I think that's helped us so far."
The Rangers were a popular preseason pick for the Stanley Cup but struggled out of the gate and enter tonight’s contest at 6-5-0. But as Julien pointed out, with some new faces in the lineup, such as forward Rick Nash, it was going to take time for New York to mesh. They appear to be doing so now, carrying a two-game win streak into this game.
"We know each other very well, there's no doubt about that, but this is a situation where early in the year, teams can be very different than they are now," Julien said. "Maybe in our case we had a very familiar club and they didn't. They're probably getting a little more familiar with each other and they're definitely going to be a harder team to play against."
With solid goalies at both ends and stingy defenses, the Rangers and Bruins tend to have low-scoring affairs, and Kelly expects that to be the case tonight.
"We always have good games and playoff type games with them," Kelly said. "Most of the time they're low-scoring games, with both teams competing hard, and it's almost who makes that first mistake wins. That's the way I'm assuming tonight will be as well."
Normal lines: Julien had his normal lines back together at the game-day skate, with Nathan Horton back on the wing with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, and Tyler Seguin back with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. But as Julien pointed out, that can change in a hurry as he has the luxury of interchangeable parts in Seguin, Horton and most of his forwards.
“Interchangeable,” Julien said of his forward group. “I said it before -- even after they came out and did a great job in Montreal, I said, ‘Listen, this could be temporary, and it could be for a while. It depends.’ There are some players there that are very interchangeable and it gives us some different options.”
No word from Hockey Canada: After his morning press briefing, Julien was asked about the possibility of coaching for Canada at the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year. He said he hadn’t heard anything yet but that he also wasn’t expecting to at this point, as Canada has a plethora of candidates to choose from and will take their time doing so.