The Boston Bruins collected three of a possible four points in their last two games against Stanley Cup contenders the Anaheim Ducks and New York Rangers.
Good goaltending, quality special teams and scoring production up-and-down the lineup are positive signs for the Bruins as they continue their push for a playoff spot Sunday evening against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes are one of the NHL’s worst teams and sit at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division standings. That said, they have played the Bruins tough this season with a 2-1 loss at TD Garden and a 2-1 shootout win on home ice. Carolina also has a two-game win streak with wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils.
Here’s a preview of Bruins-Hurricanes:
TV, Radio Information: NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub
Season Series: Boston 1-0-1
Record: Boston (37-25-13, fourth in Atlantic), Carolina (28-36-10, eighth in Metropolitan)
Bruins Player To Watch: It’s no surprise that Patrice Bergeron is playing at a high level during the most important time of the season. The veteran center picked up an assist in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the New York Rangers to extend his point streak to five games. He also dominated in the faceoff circle with a 22-for-30 mark, including a 79 percent win percentage (15-for-19) on defensive-zone draws.
Bergeron leads the league in faceoff percentage and faceoff wins.
“That’s been huge,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said of Bergeron’s faceoff brilliance. “He’s been huge for us for years now in regards to that and again, (Saturday) when you saw us lose some draws clean in our end they had some good opportunities. In the first period I thought some of our guys did a great job of blocking those shots. (Bergeron) gives us an opportunity to start with the puck in our own end and that’s always huge. He continues to play a big role in that department.”
The Bruins need another good faceoff performance from Bergeron against a Carolina team that ranks third in faceoff percentage (52.7).
Hurricanes Player To Watch: Eric Staal is one of the league’s best centers and is having another solid season for Carolina. He’s tallied 49 points (21 goals, 28 assists) in 69 games, including six points (two goals, four assists) in his last three contests.
Staal also has enjoyed plenty of success against the Bruins in his career with 34 points in 40 games. His impressive combination of size and skill could pose problems for the B’s blue line.
Key Stat For Bruins: Boston is 0-for-5 on the power play in two games this season against a Carolina team that ranks fifth in penalty kill percentage. Given the Bruins’ struggles to score during 5-on-5 play, it’s important that their power play — which has been a strength over the last month — creates plenty of scoring chances on Sunday.
Key Stat For Hurricanes: Carolina ranks 27th in goals scored per game and owns an 8-28-4 record when trailing first. The Hurricanes don’t have the firepower to overcome a huge deficit, so it’s important for the Bruins to play a strong first period, just like they did against the Rangers.
Thumbnail photo via Alan Diaz/The Associated Press