Boston played 17 of their 50 games before the All-Star break against teams from the Southeast, and they’ll add another game on Tuesday when they return to action with a trip to Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes.
After that contest though, the Northeast Division leaders will get to start feeling like a Northeast Division team again. The Bruins play Southeast opponents just twice more, hosting Tampa Bay on March 3 and Atlanta on April 2.
“It is strange, but it is what it is,” Bruins forward Mark Recchi said. “We seem to play them all quick. Washington we played quick early, now Carolina we play quick, then we don’t see them. But it will be good to get that done and get into our division and get focused on playing in our division. But every game’s important now.”
The Bruins finished with Washington in December after playing them three times in their first 10 games, and also closed out the season series with Florida in the final game before the All-Star break. Now they take on Carolina for the final time after playing the Hurricanes twice in two days just two weeks ago.
There are advantages to the frequent meetings. It can build up some animosity and intensity to spice up what might otherwise be rather bland interdivisional games. And the players can pick up on the opponents’ tendencies and be better prepared when playing again so quickly.
“It definitely helps,” Recchi said. “We don’t have to see as much video, which is always good.”
The Bruins know plenty about Carolina, as the sting of a Game 7 overtime loss to the Hurricanes in the second round of the playoffs two years ago remains fresh for many of the current players. Boston also knows that the Canes are battling for their playoff lives, coming out of the break one point out of the final postseason spot in the East.
“We know they are tough,” Recchi said. “We know they play tough in Carolina. It will be a tough game. They’re fighting for a playoff spot. They have a good team. They’re really deep at forward.”
Carolina is 13-8-2 at home this season, and the Hurricanes went 8-4-2 in January. The Bruins were responsible for two of those four losses, sweeping the home-and-home series with a dominating 7-0 win at the Garden, then squeaking out a 3-2 victory in Raleigh. Winning such a tight clash in the rematch has Recchi optimistic that the Bruins will be able to prevail again in the final meeting on Tuesday.
“The good thing about it is that it was a battle down in Carolina,” Recchi said. “We had the big one here where we blew them out, then the good news is the game down there was tough. … If we went down and beat them handily again in Carolina I’d be a little worried about [Tuesday], especially coming off a break. But I think the guys know that it was a tough one down there. It was hard to play. They compete hard and they skate well, so we’re going to have to be ready for that.”
And once they get past this game, they can finally start getting ready for some more regular run-ins with the rivals from their own division.
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