Twice in the past two weeks, the Bruins have returned to the Garden for the second game of a back-to-back set and had to face a rested club waiting for them. They lost to both St. Louis and Montreal on those occasions, but now Boston has a chance to turn the tables.
While the Bruins got Friday off with coach Claude Julien even canceling practice, Los Angeles was in Buffalo for a showdown with the Sabres. The Kings fell 4-2 to Buffalo, dropping their third straight game.
They won’t be in arriving in Boston in good humor, but the Bruins know better than to underestimate them. Even with their recent skid, the Kings remain among the Western Conference leaders at 12-6-0 as they are finally reaping the rewards of several years of shrewd drafting during their lean seasons this decade.
“They have high-end players throughout their lineup,” said Julien after Friday’s off-ice workouts. “They’re high tempo. They have a ton of skill and it’s spread out throughout their lineup. They come at you shift after shift. That what happens when you struggle for a few years. You get those top-end players in the draft and you take advantage of that and eventually the cream comes to the top and they’re starting to show the quality of the players they’ve drafted now that they have a few years of experience.
“They’ve been through some tough times, but they’ve obviously drafted well and built well,” added Julien. “They’ve got a team right now that’s got a lot of confidence and definitely a lot of skill. So we’ll be tested [Saturday], there’s no doubt there.”
Boston Bruins (11-5-1, 21 points) vs. Los Angeles Kings (12-6-0, 24 points)
Nov. 18, 7 p.m. (NESN)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
This is the first of two meetings this season between the Bruins and Kings. The Bruins also played L.A. twice last year, losing both games in shootouts — 4-3 in L.A. on Jan. 16 and 3-2 in Boston on Jan. 30. The Bruins still hold a 78-33-13-3 advantage in the all-time series, including a dominant 44-12-6-2 mark at home.
Tuukka Rask finally earned his first win of the season on Thursday and did it in spectacular fashion with a 41-save shutout against Florida. He’s now 1-4-1 on the year, but improved his GAA to 2.24 and his save percentage to .939. Rask has not started consecutive games this year, but should get the chance to now after his shutout on Thursday. Tim Thomas got the next start after each of his four shutouts this year. He’s now 10-1-0 with a 1.37 GAA and a .959 save percentage on the year.
For the Kings, Jonathan Quick is 10-2-0 with a 1.73 GAA and a .936 save percentage. He’s also 3-0-0 with a 2.16 GAA and a .916 save percentage against the Bruins. He’ll likely get the start on Saturday, as Jonathan Bernier fell to 2-4-0 after giving up four goals on 26 shots in Buffalo on Friday. Bernier’s lone game against Boston saw him surrender seven goals on 30 shots back in 2007.
Quick hails from Milford, Conn. and played at UMass-Amherst, while defenseman Peter Harrold played at Boston College. Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford played 122 games with the Bruins from 1985-87 and 1995-97. Former Bruins GM Mike O’Connell is now in the Kings’ front office, in charge of pro development and special assignments.
The Kings have 12 fighting majors in 18 games, but eight have come in the last five games. Kevin Westgarth is the heavyweight and leads the club with three fights, while Kyle Clifford, Matt Greene and Wayne Simmonds each have been in two. The Bruins continued to pile up the fighting majors with another one on Thursday when Shawn Thornton had a bloody slugfest with Darcy Hordichuk. That was Boston’s 19th fight in 17 games. Thornton, Greg Campbell, Mark Stuart and Adam McQuaid each have three, while Lucic has a pair of fighting majors. Last year’s two games produced three fights, with Thornton fighting Ivanans, McQuaid taking on Brandon Segal and Stuart suffering a broken finger in a bout with Simmonds.
The Bruins have finally seemed to get things going at home. They’re still just 4-4-1 on home ice, but they’ve won their last two at the Garden and three straight overall. The Kings, meanwhile, are just 4-5-0 on the road and have lost three straight. Friday’s loss in Buffalo opened a four-game trip against Northeast Division clubs, as they go on to Ottawa and Montreal next week. The Bruins would like to see both trends continue, with a win to move over .500 at home and continue Los Angeles’ road woes.
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