Bruins Take on Matt Cooke, Penguins at Brand-New Consol Energy Center in First of Four Matchups

Bruins Take on Matt Cooke, Penguins at Brand-New Consol Energy Center in First of Four Matchups It’s not quite a return to the scene of the crime.

The Penguins have moved into a new building this season, leaving behind the famed Igloo where they won three Stanley Cups. That old barn was also the sight of one of hockey’s darkest moments, when Pittsburgh cheap-shot artist Matt Cooke delivered his most diabolical hit yet, blindsiding Bruins center Marc Savard with a viscous blow to the head back on March 7.

The Bruins return to Pittsburgh for the first time since that incident on Wednesday, and while the first matchup of the year will take place in the new Consol Energy Center, the bad blood from that final trip to the Igloo still hangs over both teams.

Savard won’t be making the trip, as he remains sidelined with post-concussion syndrome symptoms. Cooke, though, will be there, ready with a stick or an elbow as always, but unlikely to take up any of the Bruins’ offers to settle things with the gloves off.

And while the Bruins would love to exact a more satisfying measure of revenge on Cooke than the handful of rights Shawn Thornton was able to land in the first rematch between the clubs on March 18, they also know they have to worry about winning the game.

Boston has lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, and they can’t allow their quest to punish Cooke cost them another two points as they open a key stretch of three games in four nights against conference opponents.

“We were too focused on one thing and it was the wrong thing,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic of the 3-0 loss to the Penguins in the “revenge game” last season. “Obviously you want to do whatever you can to stick up for your teammate, but also you’ve got to focus on the task at hand. We know how important this little stretch is with these next three games against some key opponents. We have a chance here to move up in the standings and take first in the division. I think that’s the most important thing for us right now and that’s what we’re focusing on.”

When and Where

Boston Bruins (7-3-1, 15 points) at Pittsburgh Penguins (7-7-1, 15 points)
Nov. 10, 7 p.m. (NESN)
Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Penn.

Head to Head

This is the first of four meetings this season between the Bruins and Penguins. Boston holds a 100-53-21-4 edge in the all-time series, including a slim 38-35-15-2 advantage in Pittsburgh. But the Bruins were just 1-2-1 against the Penguins last year, including a 2-1 loss in their last trip to Pittsburgh when Cooke delivered his cheap shot on Savard and an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at home in the rematch 11 days later.

Goaltending Matchup

Tim Thomas is the first Bruins goalie ever to start a season 7-0-0, but was pulled from his last start after allowing three goals on 25 shots in two periods in Washington on Friday. He didn’t factor in the decision though, and remains undefeated on the year with a stellar 1.04 GAA, .967 save percentage and three shutouts. He’s 6-4-3 with a 2.62 GAA and a .906 save percentage in his career against Pittsburgh. Tuukka Rask remains winless, but was sharp in a 2-1 shootout loss to St. Louis on Saturday. He’s 0-3-1 with a 2.62 GAA and a .921 save percentage on the year, while losing his lone start against the Penguins, allowing three goals on 31 shots in the March 18 rematch last year.

Pittsburgh’s starter Marc-Andre Fleury has struggled mightily this season, going 1-6-0 with a 3.54 GAA and an. 853 save percentage. He was pulled from his last start Saturday in Phoenix after allowing two goals on five shots in seven minutes. Brent Johnson is in the process of supplanting Fleury as Pittsburgh’s No. 1 netminder. He’s 6-1-1 with a 1.62 GAA and a .943 save percentage this year, though just 4-3-1 with a 2.96 GAA and a .906 save percentage in his career against Boston. Fleury is 5-3-2 with a 2.23 GAA, a .928 save percentage and two shutouts in 11 games against the Bruins.

Stat Sheet

Bruins

  • Brad Marchand had no goals and just two points in his first 28 games in the NHL, including a lone assist in his first eight games this year. But after scoring his first goal on a short-handed breakaway at Buffalo on Nov. 3, the floodgates have opened as Marchand has put up 1-3-4 totals in his last three games.
  • The Bruins haven’t lost often so far this season, but each time they have suffered a defeat, they’ve responded by getting at least a point out of the following game as they are 2-0-1 after losses this year.
  • Lucic was held without a point by St. Louis on Saturday. It was just the second time in 11 games he hasn’t had a goal or assist, as Lucic is second on the Bruins with 5-5-10 totals. Last season, Lucic didn’t register a point in 32 of the 50 games he played, and didn’t have points in more than two straight games until a four-game point streak in the final four games of the regular season.

Penguins

  • Evgeni Malkin scored his first goal in six games at Phoenix on Saturday, but still has just 1-1-2 totals and is a minus-8 in his last six games.
  • Kris Letang is tied for second among all NHL defensemen with 13 points, trailing only Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom. Letang already has three goals in 15 games after managing just three in 73 games last year. He’s on pace to shatter his career high of 33 points in 2008-09, and with 26 penalty minutes, he’s on pact to easily eclipse his previous high of 51 in 2009-10 as well.
  • The Penguins’ power play finally got on the board with single goals in the last two games. That followed an 0-for-26 stretch in the previous six games. They’re still just 2 of 35 in the past eight games, falling to 19th in the league for the season at 13.3 percent (10-75).

Infirmary Report

Bruins

  • Center David Krejci (concussion) is out at least a week.
  • Right wing Michael Ryder (undisclosed) left practice early on Tuesday and is questionable for Wednesday’s game.
  • Defenseman Johnny Boychuk (fractured left forearm) is expected to miss another two weeks.
  • Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is out indefinitely.
  • Left wing Marco Sturm (knee surgery) is expected to be out until at least early December.
  • Center Trent Whitfield (ruptures Achilles) could miss the entire year.

Penguins

  • Center Jordan Staal (broken hand, foot infection) is out indefinitely.
  • Center Evgeni Malkin (undisclosed) left practice early on Monday, but returned on Tuesday and is expected to play Wednesday.

Familiar Faces

The Penguins have plenty of New England ties, with defensemen Brooks Orpik (Braintree, Mass./Boston College) and Ben Lovejoy (Canaan, N.H./Dartmouth) and forward Craig Adams (Harvard), along with assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald (Billerica, Mass.), who also played for the Bruins in 2005-06. Current Bruins Mark Recchi and Andrew Ference each began their NHL careers in Pittsburgh. Recchi spent three stints with the Penguins from 1988-92, 2005-06 and 2006-08, while Ference played there from 1999-2003.

Fight Card

The Penguins are second in the league with 16 fighting majors in 15 games. The Bruins are the only other team in the East with more fights than games played at 12 through 11 games. Think these clubs may have been warming up for each other? There’s no lack of bad blood between the Bruins and Pens since Cooke’s cheap shot on Savard. Cooke did accept Thornton’s challenge to a fight in the rematch, but few Bruins fans felt that was enough retribution. Zdeno Chara had his only fight of the season in that same game, taking on Michael Rupp, while Byron Bitz battled Deryk Engelland in the only fight in the three prior games last season. Engelland leads the Penguins with six fights this year, including a surprising knockout of Toronto’s Colton Orr. Rupp has two fighting majors, while eight players each have one, including Sidney Crosby and heavyweight Eric Godard. Mark Stuart leads the Bruins with three fighting majors, while Greg Campbell and Lucic each have two. Five other each have one, including Thornton, but those numbers could go up on Wednesday.

Outlook

The Bruins will try to snap a two-game skid after falling to Washington and St. Louis in their last two games. They came out flat against the Capitals, but rallied in the third before falling, then played well in a shootout loss to the red-hot Blues. Getting up for Wednesday’s showdown with the Penguins shouldn’t be a problem, but controlling that emotion and channeling it in a positive direction could be more of an issue. The Bruins’ first priority is to come out of Pittsburgh with two more points in the standings, but they certainly wouldn’t mind getting in a few shots on Cooke along the way.

Bruins on Twitter

Yardbarker

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 183,913 other followers