There’s nothing like some time on the road to clear your head. At least, that’s what the Boston Bruins are hoping after the Los Angeles Kings gave them the business in their own building in Boston’s worst loss in eight years.
With Tuesday’s 9-2 shellacking now in their rear-view mirror, the Bruins now will hit the road for a season-long trip that includes stops in six cities and matchups with three teams currently positioned inside the NHL’s playoff picture.
While calling the trip a make-or-break stretch wouldn’t exactly be accurate — the Bruins have 23 more games after it — Boston’s performance over the next week-and-a-half could go a long way toward determining which moves, if any, general manager Don Sweeney chooses to make ahead of the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
It’s worth noting that the Bruins have been far better away from home this season, going 16-5-3 in road games as opposed to 12-14-3 in games at the Garden.
With that said, here’s a look at the opponents the Bruins will face during their jaunt through the midwest corridor of North America. (Teams that held playoff spots entering Thursday are underlined.)
Winnipeg Jets (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET)
Record: 24-26-3 (seventh in Central)
Prior meetings: Jets win 6-2 (Oct. 8)
After making a surprise return to the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs — and being swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round — the Jets have crashed back to Earth this season. They enter their matchup with the B’s ranked dead last in the stacked Central Division, and while they’ve won two in a row over playoff teams in Colorado and St. Louis, Paul Maurice’s club is 0-7 this season when going for a third consecutive win. Hockey East fans watching Thursday’s tilt will see a familiar face in Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who backstopped UMass Lowell to consecutive conference championships in 2013 and 2014.
Minnesota Wild (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET)
Record: 23-20-10 (sixth in Central)
Prior meetings: Wild win 4-2 (Nov. 19)
Though they sit just two points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Wild have been a massive disappointment since the calendar flipped to 2016. Minnesota has lost six in a row and 11 of its last 12, and it still has to deal with the East-leading Washington Capitals before the Bruins come to town this weekend. These struggles have led some — including Zenon Konopka’s rabbit (yes, you read that right) — to speculate that Mike Yeo’s days behind the Wild bench might be numbered.
Detroit Red Wings (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET)
Record: 28-18-8 (second in Atlantic)
Prior meetings: Bruins win 3-1 (Nov. 14), Bruins win 3-2 in overtime (Nov. 25)
The only divisional opponent on this Bruins trip, the Red Wings were able to vault past the B’s and Tampa Bay Lighting in the Atlantic Division standings with a win Wednesday over the Ottawa Senators. They’ve been led this season by All-Star rookie Dylan Larkin (Detroit’s goals and points leader) and goaltender Petr Mrazek, who leads the NHL in both goals against average and save percentage.
Columbus Blue Jackets (Tuesday, Feb. 16, 7 p.m. ET)
Record: 21-28-6 (eighth in Metropolitan)
Prior meetings: Bruins win 3-2 in shootout (Jan. 26)
There’s no denying that ol’ Lumbus has been one of the worst teams in the NHL this season, if not the worst. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers have fewer points than the Blue Jackets’ 48, and injuries to 2013 Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky have forced the Jackets to rotate between four different goaltender. Columbus is on a bit of a run, however, going 4-1-1 in its last six games, and Boston needed a shootout to pull out a win on home ice in the teams’ only meeting so far this season.
Nashville Predators (Thursday, Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET)
Record: 25-21-8 (fourth in Central)
Prior meetings: Predators win 3-2 (Dec. 7)
The Central Division currently is divided into two tiers: the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues in one; everyone else in the other. The Predators currently sit atop that second group, in possession of the West’s first wild-card spot but trailing the third-place Blues by 11 points. Boston’s first meeting with Nashville followed an unfortunately familiar trend, as the Bruins built a 2-1 lead in the second period but could not maintain it. It was an early example of the B’s inability to put teams away in the third period — a problem they still have yet to resolve.
Dallas Stars (Saturday, Feb. 20, 8 p.m. ET)
Record: 34-15-5 (second in Central)
Prior meetings: Stars win 5-3 (Nov. 3)
The trip concludes with a visit to Big D, where the Bruins will take on old friend Tyler Seguin for the second and final time this season. Seguin torched his former team to the tune of a hat trick in their first meeting, and while Dallas hasn’t quite kept up the torrid pace it set in the final few months of 2015, it seems to have rebounded from the seven losses-in-eight games slump it struggled through at the beginning of January. The Stars remain a Stanley Cup frontrunner, with only the Capitals and Blackhawks boasting better records.
Thumbnail photo via Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Images
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