Bruins Return to Garden to Host NHL’s Best Team

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Bruins Return to Garden to Host NHL's Best Team After answering the bell in Ottawa with a resounding 4-1 win on Tuesday, the Bruins will have to do it again against the best team in the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks.

It is the Bruins' first game in the TD Garden since Dec. 30 after back-to-back roadies, and while they won't have 40,000 fans cheering them on like they did at Fenway Park last Friday, they will need to feed off whatever energy they can find. This Blackhawks team is poised to win the Stanley Cup.

The Hawks come into the game riding a four-game winning streak and have won 11 of their last 13 games. The Bruins, meanwhile, are 3-1-0 in their last four, setting up for what should be a great Original Six matchup.

When And Where

Thursday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m. (NESN)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.

Records

Bruins (22-13-7, 51 points, second place in Northeast Division, fifth place in Eastern Conference)
Blackhawks (30-10-3, 63 points, first place in Central Division, first place in Western Conference)

Head to Head

This is the second and final meeting of the season between these two Original Six clubs. In their first meeting, Jonathan Toews scored once in regulation and again in the shootout, leading the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-4 victory over the Bruins at the United Center on Dec. 18. Tim Thomas made 40 saves, many of which were acrobatic stops, but couldn't prevent the Bruins from losing their third straight game at the time. David Krejci scored twice for Boston, including the goal that forced overtime with 2:43 left in regulation.

The Bruins lead the all-time series 259-234-79-3.

Skinny

The Bruins had one of their worst efforts of the season in Monday's 3-2 loss to the Rangers. Claude Julien called his team out after that game, but after the 4-1 win at Ottawa, Julien was in a much better state of mind.

"You just hope that guys can understand that when you put a little bit of emotion and you put a lot of work into your game, you get rewarded like we did [on Tuesday]," said Julien. "[When] you get a good, solid win and you get some goals, at the end of the night you feel good about yourself and you feel good about your game."

Apparently, being the best in the NHL has set the Blackhawks' standards high, because even after a 4-1 win over the Wild on Tuesday, the players weren't satisfied.

''I don't think we liked our overall game,'' said defenseman Brian Campbell after the Hawks' 4-1 victory Tuesday. ''It wasn't one of our best efforts, but we've got to find ways to win those games, as well."

Chicago has an NHL-best home record of 20-4-1, but 10 of their remaining 12 games this month are on the road, where they are 10-6-2.

Projected Lineups

Bruins
Forwards
Marco Sturm–Marc Savard–Mark Recchi
Blake Wheeler–David Krejci–Miroslav Satan
Daniel Paielle–Steve Begin–Michael Ryder
Shawn Thornton–Vladimir Sobotka–Byron Bitz

Defensemen
Zdeno Chara–Dennis Wideman
Adam McQuaid–Johnny Boychuck
Matt Hunwick–Derek Morris

Goaltenders
Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Blackhawks
Forwards

Troy Brouwer–Jonathan Toews–Patrick Kane
Andrew Ladd–Patrick Sharp–Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg–John Madden–Dustin Byfuglien
Ben Eager–Colin Fraser–Tomas Kopecky

Defenseman
Duncan Keith–Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell–Brent Sopel
Niklas Hjalmarsson–Jordan Hendry

Goaltenders
Cristobal Huet
Antii Niemi

Goaltender Matchup

Bruins
Tim Thomas is 12-9-5 with a 2.31 GAA and .921 save percentage. Thomas has four shutouts.

Tuukka Rask is 10-4-2 with a 1.92 GAA, .934 save percentage and one shutout. Rask leads the NHL in GAA and is tied for first in save percentage.

Blackhawks
Cristobal Huet
is 20-8-2 with a 2.08 GAA and .912 save percentage. He has three shutouts this season.

Antii Niemi is 10-2-1 with a 1.81 GAA and .926 save percentage. He has four shutouts.

Stat Sheet

Bruins
Patrice Bergeron leads the team in points (11 goals, 20 assists) with 31.

Zdeno Chara leads the team in assists with 22 and is second in points with 25.

Blake Wheeler
had two goals and an assist in the 4-1 win at Ottawa on Tuesday and has three goals and five points in his last two games. Wheeler has 10 goals and 24 points this season.

With a goal and an assist on Tuesday night, Mark Recchi tied Hall of Famer and Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita as the NHL's 13th-leading scorer all time with 1,367 points. Recchi's goal came on the power play, and he now leads the Bruins in power-play goals with six. Recchi has four points in his last four games and is second on the team in scoring with 25.

David Krejci had a goal and an assist on Tuesday and now has three helpers and four points in his last four games.

Blake Wheeler scored his first goal in 15 games Monday night. He also added an assist and now has eight goals and 21 assists on the season.

The Bruins killed off three out of four Senators power plays on Tuesday. They've allowed only 19 goals on 152 power plays faced and lead the NHL with an 87.5 percent success rate.

The Bruins' power play was 2-for-5 on Tuesday night and they are 27-for-148 with an 18.2 percent success rate. That ranks them at 17th in the NHL.

Blackhawks

Patrick Kane
has a nine-game point streak going with 15 points during the streak. He leads the Blackhawks in points with 49, in goals with 18 and is tied for the team lead in assists with 31. Kane is sixth in the NHL in points.

Defenseman Duncan Keith is tied with Kane with 31 assists and is second on the team in points with 37.

Captain Jonathan Toews has two points in his last two games and 35 points this season. He is second in the NHL with a plus-20 rating.

Marian Hossa
had two goals Tuesday against Minnesota and now has a four-game point streak going with seven points during that span. He has 20 points in 21 games played since returning to the lineup Nov. 25.

The Blackhawks trail only the Bruins on penalty-kill success, killing off 87.2 percent of the power plays they've faced, allowing only 19 goals on 148 power plays.

The Blackhawks have scored one power-play goal in each of their last eight games and their power play is 33-for-159 overall. They are ranked sixth in the NHL with a 20.8 percent success rate.

Black and Blue

Bruins
Andrew Ference
is out for six weeks after injuring his groin Tuesday night in Ottawa.

Patrice Bergeron will be out for two weeks with a broken thumb. Bergeron is, however, skating and practicing with a splint on his right thumb.

Mark Stuart (broken sternum) is on injured reserve. Stuart has been skating the last four days but is still expected to miss another two to three weeks.

Milan Lucic
(high ankle sprain) has been skating with the team for a week now but is still day-to-day. There is a slim chance he could play on Thursday, but Saturday against the Rangers looks more likely.

Blackhawks
Adam Burish
suffered a torn ACL in a preseason game that required surgery and he has been on injured reserve since. The Blackhawks expected his rehab to take six months, meaning he could rejoin the team in March. He began light skating in mid-December.

Dave Bolland underwent back surgery on Nov. 10 to repair a herniated disc. He was expected to miss 12-16 weeks. He has begun gym workouts and is expected to start light skating soon.

Defenseman Cam Barker suffered an upper-body injury on Sunday and is listed as day-to-day.

This Date in Bruins History

On Jan. 7, 1982, Rick "Nifty" Middleton nets two goals and three assists in an 8-6 win over the now-defunct Winnipeg Jets.

Overheard

"I'm not surprised that Recchi is there, that's for sure. You can see that the younger guys are obviously following the lead of Mark, and hopefully it stays that way. It's always nice to get rewarded when you go into those dirty areas. Scoring goals is always fun."
–Captain Zdeno Chara, on Mark Recchi's knack for finding the right place to score

Press Box

Bruins
Patrice Bergeron skated Wednesday and believes he can be back within two weeks, while Milan Lucic's status is up in the air.

The Bruins bounced back with the kind of game Claude Julien wants every night.

Mark Stuart relived his World Junior Championship experience through the 2010 USA squad that beat Canada for the gold medal Tuesday night.

Blackhawks
Here's the game story from the Hawks' 4-1 win over Minnesota.

Kris Versteeg wants revenge against the organization that traded him away.

Patrick Kane is reaching out to a Boston kid that made Kane's Olympic nomination official.

NHL
Yankee Stadium will not host the 2011 Winter Classic.

Mike Milbury thinks Ilya Kovalchuk should give the Thrashers a hometown discount.

A seven-year-old Denver child beat liver cancer and is back playing hockey with dreams of the NHL.

Outlook

The Bruins said all the right things after that lackluster effort in New York on Monday and then delivered on Tuesday night with a complete and spirited effort. Now the key is to see if they can maintain that level of play, and they've got a great test in front of them for this one.

The Blackhawks are poised to win a Stanley Cup this season and they're playing like Cup favorites right now. They're fast, explosive and stingy all at the same time, so there's not much room to breathe or create for their opponents.

The Bruins need to stay the course and not let the Blackhawks rattle them or knock them off their game. Neutral-zone play will be probably the most important area, as the Blackhawks make some of the best first outlet passes in the league and use their defense to create offense. Therefore, it's essential for the Bruins to clog up the middle as much as possible and then take whatever chances they have.

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