The Bruins get what could be a preview of the opening round of the playoffs when the Devils visit the Garden on Thursday night.
New Jersey is currently seventh in the East, which would match them against the second-seeded Bruins in the first round if the standings hold through the end of the season. There's likely to be plenty of movement in that seeding, with the Bruins just three points ahead of the Devils, but Boston and New Jersey could meet again in the spring.
That might not be bad for the Bruins, who have won each of the first three meetings by a combined 14-5 count, but Boston has struggled to beat anyone of late, going 5-7-1 in February and being shut out five times.
"I think when you look at the games and look at the opportunities given and the goals against, that part of our game has been fairly good –- adequate, and whatever words you want to use," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the morning skate. "But offensively is where we’re being challenged right now, and there’s no doubt that when you lose a couple of guys that make things happen offensively in this league of parity, it makes a big, big difference. So, we’re challenged a little bit there but it’s up to other guys to step in there and I think we can do better in regards to a lot of things. Hitting the net is one of them, that would be a big help and obviously our net-front presence, something we keep talking about, can always get better."
The Bruins remain without forwards Nathan Horton (concussion) and Rich Peverley (knee), but defenseman Johnny Boychuk did skate with the club in its optional morning skate as he continues to progress in his recovery from a mild concussion suffered Saturday in Ottawa. Boychuk will not play on Thursday. Greg Zanon will make his Bruins debut on defense, while fellow newcomer Mike Mottau will be a healthy scratch.
The Devils have shuffled their lines a bit, moving youngster Jacob Josefson up to the third line with Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson, with Steve Bernier moving down to the fourth line with Eric Boulton and Ryan Carter.
Wes McCauley and Kevin Pollock will be the referees, with Bryan Pancich and Brad Kovachik working the lines.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-Chris Kelly-David Krejci
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Brian Rolston-Jordan Caron
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Andrew Ference
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Greg Zanon-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Nathan Horton (concussion), Rich Peverley (knee), Johnny Boychuk (concussion), Mike Mottau
Projected Devils lines
Zach Parise-Adam Henrique-Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora-Patrik Elias-Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky-Jacob Josefson-David Clarkson
Eric Boulton-Ryan Carter-Steve Bernier
Anton Volchenkov-Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene-Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador-Adam Larsson
Scratches: Cam Janssen, Matt Taormina
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