Matt Cooke to Face Bruins in Heavily Anticipated Bruins-Penguins Showdown

Matt Cooke to Face Bruins in Heavily Anticipated Bruins-Penguins Showdown Is the day of reckoning is finally here for Matt Cooke? Will the Bruins exact revenge?

It may be difficult, with such heavy focus on this game from fans, media, and even the NHL, which has enlisted veteran referees and will have head disciplinarian Colin Campbell addressing the teams' GMs and coaches. But we will finally see what unravels in terms of revenge — and whether the TD Garden will actually be playing some James Brown after the game.

The Bruins and Penguins square off in a critical game that will have huge implications on the rest of the season for this Boston club that desperately needs an emotional catalyst.

WHEN AND WHERE

Thursday, March 18, 7 p.m. (NESN)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.

RECORDS

Bruins (29-26-12, 72 points, fourth place in Northeast Division, eighth place in Eastern Conference)
Penguins (41-24-5, 87 points, second place in Atlantic Division, fourth place in Eastern Conference)

HEAD TO HEAD

This is the final meeting of the season between the Bruins and the Penguins. The Bruins are 1-1-1 against Pittsburgh, with the Pens taking the last affair 2-1 on March 7.

The Bruins lead the lifetime series 100-52-22-3.

SKINNY

The Bruins are in the thick of a playoff race — and if they weren’t playing Matt Cooke and the Penguins, it would be easy for them to look ahead to Sunday afternoon’s nationally televised game against the Rangers, who trail them by three points in the Eastern Conference. But obviously, the Bruins — and the whole hockey world, for that matter — have had their eyes glued to this game since Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard on March 7, which left Savard with a concussion and knocked him out indefinitely.

That being said, the Bruins do need to keep their playoff seeding position in mind instead of letting the revenge factor dominate their game plan. The Bruins showed in their 2-1 loss to the Pens that they can hang with the defending Stanley Cup champions. They’ve beaten them once already and they need these two points as they try to maintain their spot in the playoffs.

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–Brad Marchand

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

Goaltenders
Tuukka Rask
Tim Thomas

Penguins
Forwards

Alex Ponikarovsky–Sidney Crosby–Pascal Dupuis
Chris Kunitz–Jordan Staal–Bill Guerin
Matt Cooke–Tyler Kennedy–Ruslan Fedotenko
Michael Rupp–Max Talbot–Craig Adams

Defensemen
Sergei Gonchar–Mark Eaton
Brooks Orpik–Kris Letang
Jordan Leopold–Alex Goligoski

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

GOALTENDER MATCHUP

Bruins
Tuukka Rask
is 16-9-4 with a 2.09 GAA, a .928 save percentage and three shutouts. Rask made 30 saves in a 5-2 win over the Hurricanes on Tuesday and is 2-1-0 in three starts since returning from a knee injury which caused him to miss four games earlier this month.

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

Penguins
Marc-Andre Fleury
is 32-18-4 with a 2.70 GAA and a .905 save percentage.

Brent Johnson is 9-5-1 with a 2.69 GAA and a .909 save percentage.

STAT SHEET

Bruins
One of the hottest lines in the NHL right now is the Bruins' new top line of Marco Sturm, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. The dynamic trio has combined for 16 points in its last five games.

Bergeron has a goal in each of his last two games and leads the team with 45 points.

Recchi had a goal and an assist on Tuesday and has 37 points. His goal tied Guy Lafleur for 22nd all time in goal scoring.

Sturm leads the team with 21 goals.

David Krejci is riding a four-game points streak, registering seven points during that stretch. He now has 40 points on the season.

Dennis Seidenberg had an assist on Tuesday and now has five assists in eight games with the Bruins.

The Bruins went 0-for-4 on the power play on Tuesday and are now 40-for-224 with a 17.9 percent success rate.

The Bruins killed off three of four Hurricanes power plays on Tuesday and have surrendered only 34 goals on 236 power plays. They are ranked third in the NHL in penalty kill at 85.6 percent.

Penguins
Sidney Crosby
leads the Penguins with 87 points — coincidentally, the same number as the one he wears on his back. He also leads the team with 43 goals, nearly doubling the total of Evgeni Malkin, who is second on the team with 23 goals.

Thirty-five-year-old Sergei Gonchar leads all Penguins defensemen in points with 43. It is the 10th time of his career that he's topped the 40-point mark.

Chris Kunitz got the Penguins out to an early lead on Wednesday night with his 11th goal of the season. Ruslan Fedotenko also scored his 10th goal of the year.

Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in the second period on Wednesday night after surrendering four goals on just 13 shots.

The Penguins, who allowed a short-handed goal on Wednesday, rank 21st in the league with a 17.1 percent effectiveness on the power play. Pittsburgh ranks eighth in the league on the penalty kill at 83.6 percent.

The Penguins, after a loss to New Jersey on Wednesday, have now lost all six games against the Devils this season. Only four Penguins have scored goals in those six games (Kunitz, Fedotenko, Crosby and Alex Goligoski).

BLACK AND BLUE

Bruins

Marc Savard is out indefinitely with a concussion.

Andrew Ference is day-to day with a groin injury.

Patrice Bergeron was hit in the knee by a Mark Stuart slapshot on Tuesday, but X-rays came back negative.

Penguins
Evgeni Malkin
missed Wednesday’s game at New Jersey and is questionable for Thursday with a foot injury.

Eric Godard
(groin) is on injured reserve.

THIS DATE IN BRUINS HISTORY

On March 18, 1952, Milt Schmidt scores his 200th NHL goal in a game in which Bobby Bauer returns from retirement to skate one more time with linemates Schmidt and Woody Dumart.

OVERHEARD

"Any time we have things like this, we do some things to ensure that hopefully things don’t get out of hand, and they do what they have to do and keep things civil.”
–NHL head disciplinarian Colin Campbell, on why the NHL will be watching with a heavy presence at the TD Garden on Thursday

PRESS BOX

Bruins
Kathryn Tappen
doesn't expect the B's to make a bad decision on Thursday night.

The Boston Globe ponders whether there will be retribution at the Garden.

The Boston Herald, meanwhile, has created a "Wanted" poster for Matt Cooke.

Penguins
The Devils had the Penguins' number all year long.

Sidney Crosby and the Pens are ready for anything on Thursday.

Penguins enforcer Eric Godard doesn't expect things to get too crazy on Thursday. Not without him on the ice, anyway.

NHL
The Devils busted out the green retro jerseys on Wednesday.

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau believes Alex Ovechkin will come out more determined than ever after his suspension.

Speaking of the Ovechkin suspension, it's worth wondering if he really deserved one.

OUTLOOK

Lots of fans are calling for a bloodbath at the TD garden on Thursday, and if you’re one of those fans, you may walk away disappointed. Expect the Bruins to come out and lay a physical — but legal — beating on the Penguins. They will hit the stars, like Sidney Crosby, hard — and someone will challenge Matt Cooke — but this game has too much at stake for a full-fledged donnybrook to go down.

The team may be celebrating the Big Bad Bruins and the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Stanley Cup team after the game, but the Bruins simply want to celebrate a win and earn two huge points.

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