Playing close contests has been the norm for the New York Rangers lately, and that was the case, too, in last season's playoff series with the Boston Bruins.
New York will have Rick Nash back in its lineup as it looks to avoid a third straight home defeat Tuesday night when it faces surging Boston in the first meeting since that postseason matchup.
Nash, who has missed the last 17 games because of a concussion, passed his final test Tuesday when he skated with his teammates. The star forward has being skating - mostly on his own - the past two weeks after his symptoms subsided. This was his second concussion in eight months.
He was cleared to play Sunday and told coach Alain Vigneault the next day he was ready to go. Vigneault plans to use Nash, who hasn't played since Oct. 8, as he normally would but will talk to him throughout the game to see how he's feeling.
''He is going to play a regular shift and he is going to play some power play,'' Vigneault said. ''I would like to be able to keep him in that 15-minute range. He hasn't played for quite some time. It's almost for him like going through training camp again.''
The Rangers (10-10-0) have won seven of their last 10, though they've split four consecutive one-goal games. Captain Ryan Callahan's goal was enough for a 1-0 victory over Montreal on Saturday, but New York fell by the same score the following night at home against Los Angeles.
The team failed on a pair of short 5-on-3 situations and went 0 for 5 on the power play against the Kings.
"We were a little inconsistent at times, but we had our chances and opportunities," Callahan said of Sunday's loss. "We played well, but you have to find a way to get one."
Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves, allowing only a second-period goal that deflected in off a teammate's skate.
"It was definitely a frustrating loss because I felt we had enough chances to tie it up and maybe win," Lundqvist said. "We needed some puck luck, and I felt like we didn't have it. Just a really tough, frustrating loss."
Though the Rangers are on the verge of losing three straight at Madison Square Garden for the first time since a four-game skid from Feb. 20-March 3, 2011, Vigneault doesn't believe the latest defeat should get the team down.
"I'm disappointed in the outcome of the game, I'm disappointed in a little bit of our execution, but I'm not disappointed with the effort," Vigneault said. "We had the right ideas but things weren't there and we just couldn't get it done."
New York is 1 for 13 with the man advantage over its last three, and it may have a tough time breaking through against Boston, which has killed off 32 consecutive power plays.
The Bruins thwarted 16 of the Rangers' 18 power plays in last season's Eastern Conference semifinal series on their way to a five-game victory. Three of those contests were decided by one goal, and Boston secured a 3-1 Game 5 victory with an empty-netter in the final minute.
Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg had a goal and an assist each Monday as the Bruins (13-6-1) held Carolina scoreless on four power plays in a 4-1 victory. Boston has won five of six and is 6-2-1 during its penalty-kill streak.
"It's commitment," coach Claude Julien said of the penalty kill. "Most of all, we're winning battles. We're doing a good job of standing teams up."
Loui Eriksson extended his point streak to six games with an assist on Smith's first-period goal, and Tuukka Rask made 23 saves.
"We wanted to go back to basics, killing one penalty at a time," Rask said.
Backup Chad Johnson could get the start in net against New York in the second of a back-to-back. Johnson is 2-1-0 with a 2.30 goals-against average in three starts, most recently making 32 saves in a 3-2 overtime win over Columbus on Thursday.
Lundqvist, 4-3-0 with a 1.58 GAA in his last seven starts, likely will be in net for the Rangers. He posted a 2.81 GAA in the playoff loss to Boston.