Wednesday night’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Consol Energy Center is Game 41 of the season for the Bruins, which means Boston has reached the halfway point of the 2014-15 campaign.
At 19-15-6, the Bruins sit in ninth place, one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and two points behind the New York Rangers for the two wild card playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Simply put, Wednesday’s game is a must-win for Boston. The Bruins have won one of their last five games and have a tough schedule entering the All-Star break later in the month.
The B’s nearly beat the Penguins in November without No. 1 defenseman Zdeno Chara and top-six center David Krejci. Both players have since returned from injury, but the Pittsburgh lineup also has improved following the acquisition of top-six winger David Perron via trade with the Edmonton Oilers last week.
The Penguins also are tied for the league lead in home wins with 15.
Here’s a quick preview of Wednesday’s showdown.
TV, Radio Information: NBC Sports Network and 98.5 The Sports Hub
Season Series: 1-0 Pittsburgh (Penguins won 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 24)
Record: Boston (19-15-6, fifth in Atlantic), Pittsburgh (24-10-5, first in Metropolitan)
Bruins Player To Watch: When Milan Lucic is at the top of his game, the Bruins are difficult to beat. Unfortunately for the Bruins, the veteran left winger hasn’t scored in his last eight games and has one goal in his last 15 games. Lucic scored against the Penguins in November, and the Bruins will need another quality performance from him to secure two points Wednesday night.
Penguins Player To Watch: Evgeni Malkin is T-6th in the NHL in scoring and his 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) ties him with Sidney Crosby for the team lead.
The former Hart Trophy winner has scored three goals with five assists in his last seven games against the Bruins. He scored twice in Pittsburgh’s 3-2 win over Boston earlier in the season at TD Garden, including the game-winner in overtime.
Key Stat For Bruins: Boston is 2-6-3 when trailing after the first period, which has happened in two of the last three games, while Pittsburgh has the best record (15-3-3) when leading after one period. The Bruins have fought back numerous times this season to pick up points after trailing early, but that challenge is especially tough against a high-scoring Penguins team that’s given up the eighth-fewest third-period goals.
Key Stat For Penguins: Pittsburgh has fifth-best power play in the league with a 22.6 percent success rate. It was 1-for-3 on the power play in the first meeting between these teams, with Malkin scoring a second-period goal to tie the score 2-2.
The Bruins penalty kill is a perfect 7-for-7 over the last two games, but the Penguins create plenty of challenges and matchup nightmares with their power-play units, which include top-tier offensive talents such as Crosby, Malkin, Christian Ehrhoff and Kris Letang.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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