The Bruins take on the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday on the heels of two straight wins after beating the Islanders 3-2 on Saturday. This is the second game of a seven-game road trip that could very well determine whether this team makes the playoffs or not.
The Penguins, meanwhile, have won three straight since returning from the Olympic break and are trying to catch the Capitals for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins gutted out two wins over two teams below them and now they face a stiff test against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
WHEN AND WHERE
Sunday, March 7, 2:30 p.m.(NESN)
Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Bruins (29-23-11, 69 points, third place in Northeast Division, seventh place in Eastern Conference)
Penguins (39-22-4, 82 points, first place in Atlantic Division, second place in Eastern Conference)
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the third of four meetings between the Bruins and Penguins. The Bruins are 1-0-1 against Pittsburgh with the Pens taking the last affair 6-5 in a shootout on Nov. 14. The Bruins had shut out the Penguins 3-0 earlier in the week on Nov. 10. The Bruins will host Pittsburgh on March 18 in the final meeting of the regular season between the two clubs.
The Bruins lead the lifetime series 100-51-22-3.
Imagine where the Bruins would be right now in the standings if — as they were rumored to be pondering — they had traded Tim Thomas this past Wednesday at the trade deadline? For the second straight game, Thomas came through and earned a big win for Boston. This time he made 37 saves, including 33 in the final two periods, and helped the Bruins hold on for a 3-2 win Saturday on Long Island. Thomas has now made 61 saves on 65 shots in his last two games and is 2-0-0.
"The game he played before this one he was outstanding as well," Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. "You're not a Vezina Trophy winner one year and the next year you're not a good goaltender. It's just about finding his game, and he's finding it at the right time."
The B?s have now won five straight road games and are 15-10-5 on the road and have not lost a road game since Jan. 29, a 2-1 loss at Buffalo.
They are 20-10-3 at the Igloo this season and have just seven regular season games remaining in the old barn that opened in 1961. The Penguins will play in the brand new Consol Energy Center next season.
Daniel Paille-Marc Savard–Michael Ryder
Blake Wheeler?David Krejci–Miroslav Satan
Marco Sturm?Patrice Bergeron?Mark Recchi
Milan Lucuc–Steve Begin–Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara–Dennis Seidenberg
Mark Stuart– Dennis Wideman
Matt Hunwick–Johnny Boychuk
Dany Sabourin/Tuukka Rask*
*Tuukka Rask could dress on Sunday, according to head coach Claude Julien
Pascal Dupuis–Sidney Crosby–Chris Kunitz
Matt Cooke–Jordan Staal–Tyler Kennedy.
Ruslan Fedotenko–Evgeni Malkin–Alex Ponikarovsky
Mike Rupp–Craig Adams–Max Talbot.
Sergei Gonchar–Kris Letang
Alex Goligoski–Mark Eaton
Brooks Orpik–Jordan Leopold
Tuukka Rask is 14-8-4 with a 2.15 GAA and a .926 save percentage. Rask started eight straight games for the Bruins before hurting his knee in a 4-1 loss to Montreal Tuesday. He was 4-2-2 during that stretch. Rask has three shutouts.
Tim Thomas is 15-15-7 with a 2.49 GAA and a .916 save percentage. Thomas has four shutouts and earned his first win since Jan. 14 with a 3-2 shootout win over Toronto on Thursday, when he had 24 saves. He followed that up with a splendid 37-save performance Saturday in the 3-2 win over the Islanders.
After allowing four goals on twelve shots Thursday and being pulled, Marc-Andre Fleury recovered nicely, making 27 saves in a 6-3 win over the Stars on Saturday. Fleury is now 30-16-4 with a 2.71 GAA and .905 save percentage.
Brent Johnson is 9-5-0 with a 2.60 GAA and .913 save percentage.
Patrice Bergeron had an assist Saturday and now has 26 helpers this season. Bergeron leads the team with 38 points.
Zdeno Chara had an assist Saturday and now has 30 helpers to lead the team. He is second on the team in points with 35. Chara has three assists in his last five games.
Miroslav Satan had an assist Saturday and now has a goal and an assist in his last two games and four points in his last five games. Satan has eight points this season.
Shawn Thornton had an assist for the second straight game and now has nine helpers and ten points.
David Krejci scored a goal Saturday and now has 12 lamplighters and 32 points.
Marc Savard scored the game-winning goal Saturday, his first goal since Dec. 23. Savard now has 10 goals and 33 points this season. He has four points in his last five games.
Milan Lucic scored the B's first goal on Saturday and now has six goals in 31 games played.
Dennis Wideman had an assist Saturday and now has three helpers in his last four games and 17 this season.
The Bruins went 1-for-2 on the power play Saturday and are now 38-for-208 with an 18.3 percent success rate.
The Bruins killed off one of the two Islanders? power plays on Saturday. They have only allowed 31 goals on 223 power plays against and are ranked third in the NHL in penalty kills with an 86.1 percentage behind San Jose (86.2) and Buffalo (86.3).
The Bruins are still the lowest scoring team in the NHL averaging 2.33 goals per game.
Sidney Crosby had two goals and an assist Saturday and now has 44 on the season. Crosby has five points in three games since returning from the Olympics where he scored the overtime game-winner to win gold for Canada. He is tied for second in points with 83.
Evgeni Malkin is second on the team in points with 67. Malkin has two points in three games since returning from Vancouver where he played for Russia.
Jordan Staal had a goal and an assist Saturday and now has five points in his last two games. Staal is third on the team with 44 points.
Alex Ponikarovsky, who was acquired on Tuesday night from Toronto, scored a goal in his first game as a Penguin. Ponikarovsky now has 20 lamplighters and 42 points.
For the second straight game, defenseman Sergei Gonchar had two assists and now has 33 helpers and 42 points this season.
Kris Letang had two assists Saturday and now has four helpers in his last four games. Letang has 22 assists and 25 points this season.
Jordan Leopold got his first point as a Penguin with an assist Saturday and now has 19 points this season. Leopold was dealt to the Penguins from the Panthers Monday.
The Penguins amazingly have a worse power play than the Bruins. They were 1-for-5 Saturday and are 45-for-259 this season. They?re ranked 20th with a 17.4 percent success rate.
The Pens killed off all six Dallas power plays Saturday and have allowed just 43 goals on 258 power plays against. They?re ranked eighth with an 83.3 percent success rate.
BLACK AND BLUE
Andrew Ference will be out 5-7 days with a groin injury.
Tuukka Rask is day-to-day with a knee injury. Claude Julien indicated after the game Saturday that Rask could dress and even play on Sunday.
Eric Godard is on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Bill Guerin is day-to-day with back spasms
THIS DATE IN BRUINS HISTORY
On March 7, 1994, Cam Neely scored his 50th goal in his 44th game of the season in a 6-3 win over Washington.
"Are there areas where we can be better? Yes. Are there areas where we were better tonight? Definitely. At this point of the year, we need as many wins as we can get. We're not going to complain about the wins at all, but we're a work in progress — trying to get better in any area we can."
–Tim Thomas on the Bruins getting wins any way they can.
The Bruins, behind Tim Thomas' 37 saves, held on for a 3-2 win over the Islanders on Saturday.
There have been some good signs from the Bruins over the last two games.
Michael Ryder may be facing a suspension for this ugly hit on Blake Comeau.
Sidney Crosby continued his torrid pace with two goals in the Pens' 6-3 win over the Stars.
Newly acquired Alex Ponikarovsky and Jordan Leopold are already having an impact on their new team.
Want to make $10,000? Find Sidney Crosby's golden equipment.
Is the NHL is ready to rid the game of head-shots?
It's tough to move from right to left if your an NHL defenseman.
The NHL is suing ex-Phoenix owner Jerry Moyes.
The Bruins are starting to grind out wins by taking advantage of good bounces and working with more passion and grit. They have posted two straight ugly wins, but at this point in the season, a win's a win.
But the challenge will be even bigger on Sunday and the B's are going to need some skill and speed to go along with that hunger against the high-powered offense and solid goaltending of the Penguins. A win here could really build momentum and the Bruins need to keep it simple and ride the momentum they already have if they are to beat the defending Stanley Cup Champions.