|Bruins and Canadiens square off with first place on the line||01.08.11 at 8:52 am ET|
First place in the Northeast division is on the line as the Bruins (21-12-6) take on the Canadiens (22-16-3) at the Bell Centre on Saturday night. The Habs have taken both of the contests between the rival teams thus far this season, with Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas taking losses on Nov. 11 and Dec. 16, respectively.
The Bruins are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Wild at the Garden on Thursday. It was their first regulation loss since being blanked by the Ducks on Dec. 20.
WHERE IT’S AT
- The Canadiens are 13-5-3 at the Bell Centre, and their 29 home points are second only to the Capitals’ 33 in the Eastern conference. Following their Dec. 16 4-3 win over the B’s, they spent seven games on the road and have returned to Montreal with an overtime loss to the Thrashers on Sunday and a shootout win over the Penguins on Thursday.
- While this game features one of the league’s best home teams, it also features one of the best road teams in the Bruins. The B’s 12-5-3 road mark is among the best in the conference, as only the Flyers and Rangers have more points (29 apiece) on the road this season.
- New Habs defenseman James Wisniewski has five points — two goals and three assists — in four games since joining the Canadiens. He was a minus-18 with the Islanders this season, but playing for a winning team has changed that a bit. Wisniewski hasn’t posted a negative rating in any of his games with Montreal since being acquired from New York for second and fifth-round picks.
- Who would have thought that Steven Kampfer would be the hottest Bruins scorer over the last five games? The rookie defenseman has scored the first three goals of his career over the span, including a second-period tally against the Wild in which he sent a rebound from a Patrice Bergeron shot past Jose Theodore.
STORYLINES GOING IN
- There’s no bigger story than what this game means in the standings. The B’s have been in first place since beating the Panthers back on Dec. 27. Since then, they have opened a three-point lead in the Northeast and seen it shrink to one point. The the Bruins have played have played multiple games less than most of the other teams in the Eastern conference, the fact that their division-leading 48 points is worse than those of six other teams in the conference should be eye-opening enough to illustrate how important winning the division is to being in a good spot when the playoffs roll around.
[UPDATE: Horton is not expected to play, as Julien told reporters Saturday that he is "very unlikely" to go.]
If Horton plays, it seems he will do so on a new line. Julien flip-flopped Horton and Michael Ryder, meaning Horton is with Blake Wheeler and David Krejci, while Ryder will play with Milan Lucic on a line centered by Marc Savard.
- Though he has battled his way in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch this season, Habs rookie defenseman P.K. Subban has been a pain in the Bruins’ you-know-what. The 21-year-old Toronto native scored his first career goal back on Nov. 11 at the Garden and most recently laid a crushing hit on Brad Marchand that led to the winger leaving the following game vs. Washington and then missing the next three.
(You can brush up on your French with the feed.)
- This is a bear of a stretch for the B’s, as their four games following Saturday includes two games against the Penguins and one against the Flyers. It’s one their schedule’s toughest stretches of the season (they’ve got another one coming up in February that includes games against the Stars, Sharks, Habs, and Red Wings) and a good test of how far this team has come since snapping out of its mid-December funk.
|Michael Ryder gets bumped up to top line in Bruins practice||01.07.11 at 12:11 pm ET|
After Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Wild, Bruins coach Claude Julien did a bit of tinkering with the lines in practice on Friday. According to multiple reports out of Wilmington, here is how the lines looked:
Horton reportedly left practice with an unknown ailment, and Claude Julien told reporters that he considers the winger day-to-day.
Though he has gone four games without a point, Ryder has been one of the Bruins’ best offensive threats this season and is having a bounce-back year after scoring only 18 goals a season ago. The free-agent-to-be has 11 goals and 12 assists this season for 23 points. He is on pace for 23 goals.
Horton has been hot and cold throughout the season, and though his statistics may not reflect it, he has shown improved play over the team’s last four games. He has 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points.
Neither winger would face too major of an adjustment to their new line, as both Horton and Ryder have worked with David Krejci and Marc Savard, their new respective centers. Horton began the season on a line with Krejci and Milan Lucic before recently playing with Savard in the middle of his line with Lucic. Ryder was on Savard’s line when he returned from post-concussion symptoms last month before playing on his familiar line with Krejci and Blake Wheeler.
|Cal Clutterbuck goal sinks B’s as Wild defeat Bruins, 3-1||01.06.11 at 9:30 pm ET|
A third-period goal from Cal Clutterbuck sunk the Bruins as the Wild defeated the B’s, 3-1, at TD Garden on Thursday night.
Clutterbuck’s goal, an unassisted strike following a Marc Savard turnover, gave the Wild the lead in the third period, with Mikko Koivu sealing it with an empty netter. Martin Havlat and Steven Kampfer scored in the second period for the Wild and Bruins, respectively.
Despite a couple of highlight-reel saves, Tuukka Rask took the loss for the Bruins and fell to 3-8-1 on the season. He stopped 31 shots on a night in which the B’s outshot the Wild, 35-34.
The loss was the Bruins’ first regulation loss in seven games. They had gone 4-0-2 over their previous six. The Bruins will travel to Montreal to take on the Canadiens on Saturday night.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- Shawn Thornton had every reason to be screaming in the penalty box after his hooking call in the second period. His stick wasn’t a factor in Brent Burns losing an edge. Not only did the call kill a play in which Thornton got the puck in the offensive zone, but Havlat scored on the power play just four seconds later.
- The power play continues to be a non-factor for the Bruins. After going 0-for-4 on the power play, not only are the B’s 0-for-11 over their last four games, but they are 0-for-35 against the Wild all-time.
- Savard had a costly turnover that led to Clutterbuck picking up an unassisted goal in the third. The ill-advised attempt at a clear wasn’t quite as monumental as his turnover in overtime against the Flyers back on Dec. 11, but it seemed to sting the Garden crowd every bit as much.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- Kampfer has now scored three goals in the last five games, which is more than anybody else on the team in that stretch. Claude Julien clearly has faith in the 22-year-old considering the ice time he’s given him, and as we kicked around last month, Kampfer’s production could mean bad news for Adam McQuaid when Mark Stuart returns from his hand/finger injury.
- If confidence is actually a big concern for Rask, he turned in yet another sound performance that should change his tune a bit. It was his third straight start, and the first time all season Julien gave him the nod in three consecutive games.
- Rask made a nice lunging save on Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the second period, but the save of the night came in the second period, when he dove across the goal to rob Havlat with a save reminiscent of Tim Thomas‘ against the Maple Leafs back on Dec. 4.
- With Bergeron’s assist on Kampfer’s goal, he now has 10 points over his last 10 games. He now has 25 points on the season.
|Steven Kampfer scores, Bruins and Wild tied after two||01.06.11 at 8:38 pm ET|
Bad refereeing, a sprawling save, and a pair of goals made it an interesting second period, and after two, the Bruins and Wild are tied at one.
Shawn Thornton was called for a phantom hook on Brent Burns in front of the Wild net. Thornton actually made a nice play in getting possession of the puck after Burns lost an edge. Thornton’s stick appeared to lightly tap off one of Burns’ skates prior to him losing an edge, but the penalty was called nonetheless, with a clearly irate Thornton screaming in the penalty box. Four second into the penalty, Martin Havlat beat Tuukka Rask from low in the circle for his ninth goal of the season.
Later in the period, Patrice Bergeron fired a shot on net from the dot, and with Tyler Seguin in the slot awaiting the rebound, Jose Theodore seemed too concerned with one rookie to turn his attention to the other in time. Steven Kampfer raced in to grab the rebound and fire it in for his third goal in the last five games. Seguin and Bergeron picked up assists on the play, though it was unclear at full speed whether Seguin got a stick on the puck.
Late in the period, Rask was treated to a Garden-wide “Tuukka” chant after he robbed Martin Havlat with a diving save. Through two, the Wild are outshooting the B’s, 25-23.
|Bruins and Wild scoreless after one||01.06.11 at 7:43 pm ET|
The Bruins have gotten some opportunities early on, but they head to the locker room in a scoreless tie with the Wild after one at TD Garden.
Tuukka Rask looked very sharp, and made the early save of the night in lunging to rob Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Rask stopped all nine shots he saw while B’s got 13 shots on Jose Theodore.
The two penalties of the period came in the form of tripping calls on Kyle Brodziak and Brent Burns at 11:47 and 17:20, respectively. The B’s went 0-for-2 with the man advantage and are now 0-for-7 over the last four games. Historically, they are now 0-for-33 on the power play vs. the Wild.
Marc Savard led the B’s with three shots on goal, while Clayton Stoner and Cal Clutterbuck had two shots apiece for the Wild.
|Tuukka Rask to start for Bruins vs. Wild||01.06.11 at 6:58 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask will make his third consecutive start when the Bruins take on the Wild Thursday night at TD Garden. Rask, who hadn’t started two games in a row this season until Monday’s 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs, is 3-7-1 with a 2.63 goals against average and .927 save percentage.
Due to the emergence of Tim Thomas as the league’s top netminder this season, Rask, who led the NHL in both GAA and save percentage last season, has had to deal with a backup role to the surprise of many. After being pulled following three first-period goals against the Sabres on Saturday, Rask came back to stop 36 shots against the Leafs.
|Tyler Seguin getting used to going back and forth between positions||01.06.11 at 2:02 pm ET|
Tyler Seguin has said it countless times: he doesn’t care what position he plays, as long as he’s playing and helping the team. A stock quote? Sure, but the 18-year-old truly doesn’t seem to have a preference, and he has seemed equally capable in both roles.
A natural center, Seguin was rumored to be in line for a temporary move to the wing from the moment the time the Bruins drafted him second overall. The most success he had with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL came when he played as a pivot, but given that the Bruins already had what they thought would be a healthy Marc Savard, as well as David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and newcomer Gregory Campbell, it seemed to make more sense to start Seguin out on the wing.
Of course, that didn’t immediately come to be, as Savard’s setback late in the offseason due to post-concussion symptoms kept him out for the first 24 games of the season. Seguin would start the season centering the third line before seeing occasional time on the wing. With Savard’s return, Seguin stayed at wing, and after the offense-wide shakeup two weeks ago, the rookie wound up on the left wing of a line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.
On Monday, though, Seguin started out centering Campbell and Shawn Thornton before Claude Julien moved him back to his normal line, but with the rookie playing more center. Bergeron, who played the wing as a rookie, saw more time on left wing as the two players swapped positions on the line throughout the night.
Seguin said he can handle going back and forth between wing and center throughout the night, though he didn’t see it entirely as smooth sailing.
“Me and Bergy got a little mixed up out there,” Seguin admitted. “We didn’t know who was playing center. Sometimes we’d go out there, and one guy would be taking the draw when it was supposed to be another guy.
“Stuff like that is just going to take a game to get used to. Tonight, if we’re still together, we know where we’re playing.”
Much has been made of the impact playing with a guy like Recchi could have on a rookie, but in Bergeron, Seguin gets to not only skate with a textbook two-way center, but someone who has succeeded in both roles. Seguin should have the opportunity to continue learning from Bergeron, as the three skates on the same line in Wednesday’s practice.
Through 36 games this season, Seguin has six goals and seven assists.
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