Hot on Boston’s Trail, Thrashers Welcome Bruins to Atlanta for Playoff-Like Matchup

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Hot on Boston's Trail, Thrashers Welcome Bruins to Atlanta for Playoff-Like Matchup After burying one team chasing them for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race on Sunday, the Bruins are in Atlanta to face the hot Thrashers, who have won four straight and trail the B’s by only a point.

With a win, the Thrashers could leapfrog Boston in the standings and temporarily knock the B's out of a playoff slot.

The Bruins have another chance to distance themselves from a team chasing them and possibly gain ground on the teams in front of them. This should be another tightly contested and playoff-like game.

WHEN AND WHERE

March 23, 7 p.m. (NESN)
Phillips Arena, Atlanta, Ga.

RECORDS

Bruins (31-27-12, 76 points, fourth place in Northeast Division, eighth place in Eastern Conference)
Thrashers (32-29-11, 75 points, second in Southeast Division, ninth in Eastern Conference)

HEAD TO HEAD

This is the final meeting of the season between the Bruins and Thrashers, with the Bruins 3-0-0 against Atlanta thus far. In their last meeting, Tuukka Rask made 18 saves in a 4-0 shutout win.

The Bruins are 23-11-2-3 in the lifetime series against the Thrashers.

SKINNY

After falling flat with no signs of emotion or unity against the Penguins last Thursday in the much-anticipated rematch with Matt Cooke and the Pens, the Bruins' dressing room was heavily scrutinized. But on Sunday, in the 2-1 win over the Rangers, the Bruins showed they were still a team, coming to the defense of Mark Stuart after he was hit from behind by Rangers forward Vinny Prospal.

"We need to stick up for each other as a team," head coach Claude Julien said. "We haven't been the best at it this year — that's a fact. I think everybody knows that including ourselves. And I think the players have made a commitment to be a team and to stick up for each other and that's what we did [Sunday]."

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Bruins
Forwards
Marco Sturm–Patrice Bergeron–Mark Recchi
Blake Wheeler–David Krejci–Michael Ryder
Milan Lucic–Vladimir Sobotka–Miroslav Satan
Daniel Paille–Steve Begin–Shawn Thornton

Defensemen
Zdeno Chara–Dennis Seidenberg
Mark Stuart–Dennis Wideman
Matt Hunwick/Johnny Boychuk–Andrew Ference

Goaltenders
Tuukka Rask
Tim Thomas

Thrashers
Forwards
Niclas Bergfors–Nik Antropov–Maxim Afinogenov
Marty Reasoner–Todd White–Colby Armstrong
Clarke MacArthur–Rich Peverley–Bryan Little
Eric Boulton–Jim Slater–Evgeny Artyukhin

Defensemen
Tobias Enstrom–Zach Bogosian
Pavel Kubina–Ron Hainsey
Johnny Oduya–Zach Bogosian

Goaltenders
Ondrej Pavelec
Johan Hedberg

GOALTENDER MATCHUP

Bruins
Tuukka Rask is 17-10-4 with a 2.08 GAA, a .928 save percentage and three shutouts. Rask made 23 saves in the 2-1 win over the Rangers Sunday. He ranks first in the NHL in GAA and second in save-percentage.

Tim Thomas is 15-17-8 with a 2.57 GAA and a .914 save percentage. He has four shutouts.

Thrashers
Ondrej Pavelec
is 13-16-6 with a 3.35 GAA and .905 save percentage. He has two shutouts. Pavelec made 44 saves in the 3-1 win over Philadelphia Sunday.

Johan Hedberg
is 19-13-5 with a 2.67 GAA and .914 save percentage. Hedberg has one shutout and has won his last three starts.

STAT SHEET

Bruins
Patrice Bergeron (16 goals, 29 assists) leads the team with 45 points.

Marco Sturm leads the team with 21 goals.

Miroslav Satan scored a goal Sunday and now has a goal and an assist in his last three games. Satan has five goals and five assists this season.

Zdeno Chara leads the team with 30 assists and the defense in points with 35.

Andrew Ference had an assist Sunday and now has eight helpers this season.

Johnny Boychuk
had an assist Sunday and now has eight helpers and four goals this season. He has a goal and an assist in his last two games.

Dennis Wideman scored his first goal in 25 games Sunday, and it proved to be the game-winner. Wideman has four lamplighters and 18 helpers this season.

Dennis Seidenberg played Sunday despite having the flu and led the Bruins in ice time with 28:22 and shots with six.

The Bruins now have a 21-1-3 record when leading by two goals at some point in the game. They’re 18-1-2 when taking a 2-0 lead.

The Bruins went 0-for-3 on the power play Sunday and are now 40-for-231 with a 17.3 percent success rate. The Bruins are 0-for-18 on the power play over the last five games and 1-for-19 on the power play since Marc Savard was injured in Pittsburgh March 7.
 
The Bruins killed off all six Rangers power plays on Sunday, including a 5-on-3 mid-way through the second period. They have surrendered only 34 goals on 246 power plays faced. The Bruins’ penalty kill is ranked first in the NHL at 86.2 percent.

Thrashers
Nik Antropov had a four-game point streak snapped Sunday. He had eight points during that streak and leads the Thrashers with 63 points. He is tied for the team lead in goals with 22 and is second in assists with 41.

Maxim Afinogenov also had a four-game point streak snapped Sunday. Afinogenov had seven points during the streak. He is second on the team in points with 57 and tied with Antropov for the lead in goals with 22.

Rich Peverly
scored his first goal in ten games and had an assist Sunday. Peverly now has 20 lamplighters and 32 assists this season.

Tobias Enstrom
leads the team in assists with 42 and has 48 points. He had a four-game point-streak snapped Sunday. He had five points during the streak.

Ron Hainsey
had a goal and two assists in Sunday's win over the Flyers. He is riding a three-game points streak with a goal and four assists during that stretch.

The Thrashers have taken a 2-0 lead in each of their four straight wins. The first goal in each came less than three minutes into the game.

The Thrashers were 0-for-3 on the power play Sunday and are 47-for-284 with a 16.6 percent success rate.

The Thrashers’ penalty kill hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in the past three games. The opponents are 0-for-10. The opponents are 1-for-14 during the win streak. The Thrashers have allowed 55 goals on 288 power plays faced with an 80.9 percent success rate.

BLACK AND BLUE

Bruins
Marc Savard is out indefinitely with a concussion.

Thrashers

Evander Kane (foot) is expected to get his walking cast off soon and could return to the lineup in about a week.

Christoph Schubert
is expected to be out for 3-5 weeks after suffering a hip injury in early March.

Boris Valabik
is out for the season after undergoing surgery on Feb. 11 to repair a torn ACL in his knee.

THIS DATE IN BRUINS HISTORY

On March 23, 1939, Mel "Sudden Death" Hill scores his second straight overtime goal in a win over the Rangers.

OVERHEARD

"We gotta all step up every night.You know, Bergie, Sturmy and [Mark] Recchi did a great job on that recent trip, but we need different guys every night stepping up and taking on big roles and it's going to take all of us doing their part."
–Milan Lucic, on every Bruin playing a role in the final 11 games.

PRESS BOX

Bruins
Milan Lucic is regaining his confidence.

The Bruins need emotion if they are to make a playoff run.

Patrice Bergeron cheered up Norwood High School hockey player Matt Brown, who was recently paralyzed in a game.

Thrashers
This is "the game of the last three years," Atlanta Journal Constitution beat writer Chris Vilvamore claimed to NESN SportsDesk host Jade McCarthy.

There's been some wild times in "Thrasherville" recently.

The Thrashers are getting it done without Ilya Kovalchuk, their former sniper.

NHL
Is the West better than the East?

After winning nine straight games, the Coyotes are howling at the top of the Western Conference.

The NHLPA wants a few changes made to the proposed rule against head shots.

OUTLOOK

You can expect another grinding and physical game Tuesday night as both teams jockey for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins need to answer the bell in the emotional and physical departments, but they will also need to start generating more offense, especially against a fast group of Thrashers forwards that can strike quick. This is another test to see if the Bruins can follow up a great effort with another one and there might not be much time left in this season if they don’t.

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