BOSTON — The Bruins will face one of their most difficult challenges of the season next week when they begin a four-game road trip — their longest of the campaign so far — that includes matchups against three of the NHL’s best teams.
The Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are among the league’s most talented and experienced clubs. The Arizona Coyotes will be the fourth and final opponent on the trip, and they aren’t an easy opponent because of their structured defensive system and excellent coaching.
“It’ll be tough, you know, they’re really good teams,” Bruins forward Reilly Smith said after Friday’s 2-1 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets. “I think last year we went 1-2 on our California trip. So they’re tough games, but we need victories right now.”
Here’s a preview of Boston’s four upcoming opponents on this road trip.
Monday, Dec. 1 at Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks sit atop the Western Conference standings with 33 points, but injuries/illnesses have taken their toll on the roster. Corey Perry missed a few games in November with the mumps, and defenseman Clayton Stoner is now fighting the virus. The Ducks announced Friday that defenseman Francois Beauchemin will miss the next four to six weeks with a broken finger and that they acquired D-man Eric Brewer from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The challenge when playing the Ducks is stopping the superstar duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Perry. This is one of the most physical and offensively talented tandems in the league, and it’s combined for 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) through 24 games. Anaheim’s goaltending also has excelled with Frederik Andersen in the starting role. He’s 10-3-4 with a .922 save percentage and a 2.15 goals against average.
The Bruins earned a hard-fought shootout win against the Ducks at TD Garden last season before losing 5-2 in Anaheim later in the campaign.
Tuesday, Dec. 2 at Los Angeles Kings
The defending Stanley Cup champions are fourth in the Pacific Division but they’re 5-2-3 in their last 10 games and 10-2-1 on home ice. The Kings still are a deep, physical team that has four quality forward lines, a talented blue line and elite goaltending with Jonathan Quick.
Boston’s focus in this matchup should be shutting down “That 70s Line,” which features veteran Jeff Carter and rookie forwards Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli. It’s been one of the most prolific scoring trios in the league with a combined 49 points (25 goals, 24 assists) through 23 games.
The Bruins dropped the first meeting last season 4-2 in Los Angeles. They evened the season series 1-1 with a 3-2 victory at home.
Thursday, Dec. 4 at San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are four points out of a playoff spot and need more scoring from their second-tier players to climb up the standings.
Joe Thornton (20 points), Joe Pavelski (19 points), Logan Couture (19 points) and Patrick Marleau (18 points) are playing well, as expected, but no other Sharks forwards have tallied more than 11 points. San Jose ranks 19th in goals scored per game as a result. This lack of scoring depth combined with mediocre goaltending and penalty killing has San Jose playing catch up as December commences.
Boston won both meetings with the Sharks last season and is 1-0 this campaign.
Saturday, Dec. 6 at Arizona Coyotes
Arizona has struggled all season and is tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the second-worst record in the West at 21 points. The Coyotes ranks 24th in goals scored per game, 25th in goals against average and 20th in penalty killing.
Boston-area native and All-Star caliber D-man Keith Yandle is tied for the team lead in scoring with 16 points. Devan Dubnyk (5-0-0) has revived his career by outplaying starting goaltender Mike Smith, who’s struggled with a 4-11-2 record, a .892 save percentage and a 3.26 GAA.
The B’s won both games against the Coyotes in 2013-14.
Thumbnail photo via Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
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