|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.
|Nathan Horton, Marc Savard come up big in front of Tuukka Rask as Bruins defeat Maple Leafs||01.03.11 at 9:30 pm ET|
Horton, who had not scored a goal in nine games entering the night, beat Leafs goaltender James Reimer from the high slot at 7:56 of the second period and set up a Savard one-timer later in the period. Mikhail Grabovski got the Leafs on the board in the first period, but his breakaway goal was the extent of the Leafs’ scoring.
Rask made 36 saves in improving to 3-7-1 on the season. The Bruins have now wrapped up their five-game road trip and will return to the Garden to face the Wild on Thursday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– As good as it is to see Horton get on the scoring sheet, ultimately the breakout was by his entire line. Since Claude Julien put the Milan Lucic-Savard-Horton line together following the team’s Dec. 20 loss to the Ducks, the line hadn’t produced a single goal. Two from the line on Monday was a good sign that Julien was wise in not blowing up the line after earlier, quieter showings.
– If Rask’s confidence was in question, he can leave Monday night’s game knowing that he came up big in Toronto. Rask got sharper throughout the night, stopping an onslaught of from the Leafs early in the third that consisted of two quick shots from Phil Kessel and a follow-up bid from Tyler Bozak at 15:44. He later came up huge against Colby Armstrong with just over 11 minutes remaining.
– Tyler Seguin had only two shots on goal and was a minus-1 (it was his shot that Luke Schenn blocked and sent up to Grabovski), but the youngster is playing a more confident game of late. Perhaps even more apparent than it was in Saturday’s two-point performance, Seguin doesn’t look like a rookie overly concerned with limiting mistakes. Confidence undoubtedly will yield improved stats.
– The Bruins have not lost in regulation since the aforementioned Dec. 20 game. They took eight of 10 points on their five-game road trip after beating the Thrashers at home on Dec. 23.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Mark Recchi got caught in a line change on Grabovski’s goal, though the play was the result of many players being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The defense, assuming Seguin’s shot would go through, wasn’t anticipating the play going the other way, and with Grabovski streaking, it was a perfect storm for the Leafs.
– The Bruins had only one power play on the night, the result of a first-period interference call on Mike Komiserik, and went 0-for-1 with the man advantage. Over the last three games, the B’s have gone 0-for-6 on the power play.
– Who knew Canada was more out of touch with North American rock music than the Czech Republic? Metallica’s “I Disappear” could be heard late in the third period coming from the Air Canada Centre speakers. O2 Arena in Prague was a little closer to relevant rock with their painful Nirvana overkill.
Nathan Horton’s play has been improved of late, but the scoring sheet hadn’t suggested it until he helped the Bruins build a 2-1 lead over the Leafs in the second period.
After a nine-game goal drought, Horton sent a puck to Dennis Seidenberg in the point before doing what made him so popular at the beginning of his Boston tenure: finding his way to the high slot and snapping a shot past bodies and in. The goal, which came at 7:56 of the period, was his 12th of the season.
The B’s outshot the Leafs, 17-8, in the period and have outshot the Leafs, 24-19, though two.
|Tuukka Rask gets first start since Dec. 15 as Bruins take on Sabres||01.01.11 at 3:01 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask will get his first start since Dec. 15th when the Bruins (20-11-5) take on the Sabres (15-18-4) in a New Years Day matchup at HSBC Arena.
Rask, who is 2-7-1 this season, hasn’t been able to rack up the starts given Tim Thomas‘ success (1.74 goals against average, .947 save percentage), though that Dec. 15 start did come against the Sabres, a 3-2 loss.
WHERE IT’S AT
– The Sabres are 8-10-1 at home and have had just two games at HSBC since hosting the Bruins last month. In those games they defeated the Ducks and fell to the Panthers.
– The B’s are 11-5-2 in away games, most recently falling to the Thrashers Thursday in a shootout. They have been very successful so far on their current road trip, grabbing five of a possible six points. Buffalo is the second-to-last stop on the five-game road trip, as they will wrap it up Monday in Tortonto.
– Just one point — an assist Tuesday — for Nathan Horton over his last eight games. The top line of Lucic-Savard-Horton isn’t showing up the stat sheet much, but they had a very encouraging showing against the Thrashers.
– David Krejci has four points — one goal and three assists — against the Sabres this season. Michael Ryder has a pair of goals and an assist vs. Buffalo. The two, along with Blake Wheeler, have made up the Bruins’ best line of late. Given their individual success against the Sabres thus far, it will be interesting how they perform together, something they’ve done very well.
– Though Ryan Miller made 29 saves on 31 shots in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Oilers, he hasn’t been tearing it up of late. In his two previous starts, he allowed four and five goals to the Panthers and Flames, respectively. Miller is 13-12-3 on the season with a 2.62 goals against average and .911 save percentage.
STORYLINES GOING IN
– The new year has come and Rask is unbelievably making just his 10th start of the season (he played one his previous nine in relief of Thomas and took the loss vs. Washington, thus explaining his 10 decisions). Thomas had seven straight starts following the team’s 3-2 loss to the Sabres with Rask in net, the longest streak for any Bruins goaltender this season.
Rask has not gotten back-to-back starts all season. With Thomas clearly this team’s No. 1 goaltender, it will be interesting to see if a sound performance on Saturday gets the Finnish netminder another go on Monday vs. the Maple Leafs, who have lost five of their last six.
– The Sabres lost center Derek Roy during their 4-3 loss to the Panthers last Thursday. Roy took a hit from Panthers blueliner Dmitry Kulikov early in the game and is now done for the season with a torn quad tendon. In the Sabres’ two games since losing Roy, who was leading the team in both goals (13) and assists (25), Buffalo has lost to Calgary and defeated Edmonton.
|Claude Julien not ready to ‘blow up’ Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Nathan Horton line||12.30.10 at 3:51 pm ET|
As the Bruins prepare to take on the Thrashers at Philips Arena, they do so with two lines producing: the Blake Wheeler – David Krejci – Michael Ryder line and the energy line of Brad Marchand, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton. With Campbell reportedly under the weather and considered a game-time decision, they may not even have that. All the more reason for the team’s top line to get going.
Since the post-Rancournament line shakeup (PRLS), the line of Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, and Nathan Horton has produced zilch. Savard and Horton picked up assists on Steven Kampfer‘s goal Tuesday night, but they did so when they were out there for the power play (the penalty expired seconds before the goal was scored). In the third period, Savard and Horton were shown the bench for a stretch of over seven minutes, and Horton finished the contest with a season-low 11:36.
Claude Julien told reporters that in trying to motivate a guy like Horton, you’ve got to know the player’s personality and find a means of motivation that works with that. He’s shown the players on the top line video and used other tactics. With many waiting on the trio to take the form many were excited about following the Horton trade, Julien also implied that patience could pay off.
“They’ve been together for three games. You have the choice of either working with them and trying to get that line going, because you know what the potential is, or you blow it up,” Julien said. “I don’t think we’re ready to blow it up right this second. Were going to try to work with these guys and hopefully get them going, because if they do, they’re going to be a dangerous trio.”
Tim Thomas was reportedly first off the ice in the morning skate, so in the most unsurprising news of the day, he’ll be in net. Quick: when was the last time Tuukka Rask started a game? If you said the Buffalo game 15 days ago, you have a good memory.
Last Thursday, the Bruins grabbed their most monumental victory of the season when they beat (and beat up) the Thrashers, 4-1, at TD Garden. While the B’s (20-11-4) have won their two games since then, the Thrashers (19-14-6) stumbled, dropping both of their post-Christmas contests.
The tables have turned a bit, and now it’s the Thrashers looking to re-establish momentum as they host the B’s Thursday night at Philips Arena.
WHERE IT’S AT
– The Thrashers are 10-7-3 in Atlanta this season, but are 1-2-2 in their last five home games. In their most recent home contest, they fell to the Lightning, 3-2, in a shootout.
– The Bruins have been a very good road team all season, as their 11-5-1 record away from the Garden (excluding the first Prague “home” game) would suggest. Thursday night marks the third game of their current five-game road trip. They are looking to make it three in a row on the road (four in a row overall).
– The Bruins have to Dustin Byfuglien‘s opponent of choice. In two games vs. the B’s this season, the former Blackhawk has two goals and three assists, both of which are the most he has against any club. He’s also had five points in his last five games. To say the Bruins need to keep an eye on him is an understatement.
– Michael Ryder is riding a three-game point streak that has featured a pair of goals and a pair of assists. His line with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler has unquestionably been the Bruins’ best PRLS (post-Rancournament line shuffle — think it won’t catch on?) and he’s picked up an assist in both games vs. the Thrashers this season.
– One. That’s how many goals the Bruins have won each of their two games this week. They’ve been cutting it close, but you get two points no matter how you win. Perhaps they’ll be a bit more offensively potent when the top two lines hit their stride.
STORYLINES GOING IN
– The Bruins’ loss to the Thrashers last month was an ugly one, but it was also a rare occurrence. The B’s have won 11 of their last 12 against Atlanta.
– Last week it was about the Bruins making a statement as a team. This time the city is awaiting a statement from an individual in the form of one Nathan Horton. The 25-year-old is freezing cold, as he hasn’t scored in seven games and was one of three Bruins forwards benched for a large chunk of the third period Tuesday night in Tampa. Horton didn’t register a shot on goal, marking the 12th game he’s had either one or zero shots on net this season.
The problem with Horton is that he let the cat out of the bag from the get-go in the preseason: He can be physical, and he can be the best player on the ice. That’s why nobody’s ridiculing Peter Chiarelli for trading for him. Everybody knows how good he is, but he needs to give reminders far more frequently.
– It will be Tim Thomas between the pipes for a seventh straight game. He allowed one goal on 27 shots last Thursday vs. Atlanta, while the Thrashers put four past Tuukka Rask last month on 26 shots. Thomas has won his last five vs. Atlanta.