After going through October without winning back-to-back games, the Boston Bruins hope that trend evaporates just as November begins.
The Bruins open the month Sunday with their second matinee in as many days as they begin a brief road trip against the struggling New York Rangers.
Boston (6-5-1) alternated wins and losses in its first 12 games, in contrast to the consistency it showed on its way to capturing the top spot in the Eastern Conference last season.
While the Bruins have had to deal with the absences of injured top-line forwards Marc Savard(notes) and Milan Lucic(notes), they are 3-1-1 since Savard’s injury and have been getting strong play from minor league call-up Vladimir Sobotka(notes).
Centering a line with Blake Wheeler(notes) and Daniel Paille(notes), Sobotka had a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win over Edmonton on Saturday. Paille was acquired Oct. 20 in a trade from Buffalo, two days after Sobotka was called up from Providence of the AHL.
The 5-foot-11, 193-pound Sobotka has also provided physical play, helping to fill the void created by Lucic’s absence, and has yet to be charged with a penalty.
“He’s so competitive and strong on his skates, he’s almost impossible to take off his feet,” Wheeler said of Sobotka. “He does it every night. The last two games, he’s had like 13 hits or something.”
“I think that was the best game of the year for us,” Rask said. “We were skating hard, moving the puck.”
Although Rask’s other shutout came against the Rangers, Tim Thomas(notes) will likely be back in net Sunday. He went 3-0-1 with a 1.44 goals-against average in his last four starts versus New York, making 31 saves in a 1-0 win April 4.
The Rangers’ recent struggles could present a good opportunity for Boston to finally win consecutive games. New York (8-5-1) is 1-4-1 since a seven-game winning streak and has totaled three goals while losing its last two in regulation.
“We go back to work, there’s no magic potion trying to get out of this here,” coach John Tortorella said after a 3-2 loss at Minnesota on Friday night. “It’s just a matter of trying to cut down on our mistakes, especially the turnovers in the neutral zone, and go back to work and find a way.”
The recent offensive drought has coincided with the absence of newcomer Marian Gaborik(notes), who had 10 goals and eight assists in 12 games before sustaining a lower-body injury in a 5-2 win over Phoenix on Monday.
The former Wild winger took part in the morning skate in Minnesota but could not suit up in his former rink.
“It would be nice to play, but I don’t want to put myself into position of it getting worse,” Gaborik said before that game.
Fellow forwards Christopher Higgins(notes) and Sean Avery(notes) were also out Friday, and the availability of all three for Sunday is uncertain. If they can’t play, New York may need another strong effort from goalie Henrik Lundqvist(notes).
Lundqvist is 10-3-2 with a 1.42 GAA against Boston. Eight of those matchups came at Madison Square Garden, with Lundqvist winning seven of them and posting two shutouts.
The strong goaltending on both sides has led to low-scoring games in the series. The teams have combined for 25 goals in the last nine meetings.