The New York Rangers were hardly satisfied with reaching the Eastern Conference finals last season, a notion reinforced when they made a blockbuster deal to acquire Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the offseason. The price tag for one of the game’s premier power forwards was steep but it reflected management’s belief that New York has all the necessary ingredients in place to win its first Stanley Cup since the 1993-94 season. The Rangers will face one of the East’s top contenders in their season opener when they visit the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.
Although Boston won the Northeast Division title, the season came to an abrupt end — along with its Stanley Cup reign — with a seven-game loss to the Washington Capitals in the conference quarterfinals. The Bruins have a huge void to fill in net after Tim Thomas, the Conn Smythe winner in their run to the Stanley Cup title in 2011, told the team he will sit out the season and was placed on the suspended list. Former first-round pick Tuukka Rask will inherit the starting job.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG (New York), NESN (Boston), NHL Network
ABOUT THE RANGERS (2011-12: 51-24-7, 1st Atlantic Division): New York’s offensive shortcomings became painfully apparent in the postseason, when it went the final 19 games without scoring more than three goals. Hence the move for two-time 40-goal scorer Nash, who reached 30 goals for the seventh time in nine seasons. Marian Gaborik, a 41-goal scorer last season, was a beneficiary of the lockout, which allowed his shoulder to heal from surgery for a torn labrum. Gaborik and Brad Richards — last year’s big offseason acquisition — were the only players on the team to surpass 60 points. The defense returns largely intact and is anchored by reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist, who compiled a sparking 1.97 goals-against average and eight shutouts.
ABOUT THE BRUINS (2011-12: 49-29-4, 1st Northeast Division): Boston stood pat for the most part with a roster that features many of the holdovers from the 2011 Cup-winning club. Tyler Seguin (team-high 29 goals and 38 assists) and Patrice Bergeron lead a balanced attack that topped the league in goal differential (plus-67). Power forward Nathan Horton has been cleared to return from a concussion that ended his season in January. The Bruins played at a .500 pace over the final 38 games once Horton was hurt. Towering All-Star Zdeno Charo backbones a defensive corps in front of Rask, who compiled a 1.97 GAA and five shutouts in 45 contests in 2009-10, but has appeared in a combined 52 games over the past two seasons. A number of Bruins played overseas during the lockout. Boston had the top five players in the league in plus-minus last season.
OVERTIME: Lundqvist is 19-6-2 with six shutouts in his career against Boston. … A number of Bruins played overseas during the lockout, giving them a possible edge in conditioning. … The Rangers had won five straight meetings until the Bruins posted a 2-1 victory on April 1, 2012.