The bruised and battered Bruins (22-15-7) will head west this week for three games in the Golden State, with hopes of not heading south in the standings. Their trio of games on the left coast begins tonight at the Honda Center in Anaheim, where they will face off with the red hot Ducks (20-19-7).
Anaheim will look to build on their four-game win streak, culminating with a very impressive 3-1 victory over the Western Conference’s top team, the Chicago Blackhawks. In that game, Anaheim put just 12 shots on goal, while Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller turned away 42 of 43 Chicago shots.
For the hometown team, the B’s have won just once in their last four games, while injuries continue to mount. On the back end, Andrew Ference remains out for Boston with a groin injury, while center Marc Savard is also sidelined long term with a slightly torn knee ligament. Both players are not with the team in California.
Defenseman Mark Stuart, and forwards Patrice Bergeron and Byron Bitz did make the trip out west, with Bitz likely returning to the lineup this evening after battling a back issue. Stuart, who has been out for more than a month with a broken sternum, could be back on the ice by the end of the trip, likely rejoining the team in Los Angeles on Saturday. Bergeron, out with a broken thumb, is skating and practicing with the team, but is unlikely to play until later this month.
Let’s dive in for more details, heading into tonight’s swim with the Ducks…
- Back on October 8th, in just the third game of the season, Boston fell to the Ducks at TD Garden in one of their worst losses of the year, 6-1.
- With Boston faltering, their hold on the fifth spot in the East is rather tenuous now. The New York Rangers, by earning one point last night in a 1-0 shootout loss to Martin Brodeur and the Devils, have tied Boston in the standings at 51 points. Hot on their heels are the surging Philadelphia Flyers, just two points back at 49, followed by three teams, Ottawa, Montreal, and the surprising New York Islanders, at 48 points.
- Head coach Claude Julien has been forced to juggle his forward lines quite a bit this season because of all the injuries. At practice yesterday, the team lined up with David Krejci centering the top line, with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder on his wings. Mark Recchi moved to center the second line, with Marco Sturm on his left and Miro Satan to his right. The third line features Steve Begin in the center, with recovering wingers Milan Lucic and Byron Bitz, and the fourth line will be some semblance of Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton, Vladimir Sobotka, and Trent Whitfield. My money is on Whitfield as tonight’s healthy scratch.
- Each team has a few players enjoying hot streaks on the score sheet. Boston’s Blake Wheeler has led the way lately, putting up four goals and three assists in his last three games, while center David Krejci has a goal and four assists in his last five. For the Ducks, winger Corey Perry has a pair of goals and a pair of assists in four games, and former Canadien Saku Koivu has four goals and five assists in his last eight.
- -The score sheet for Anaheim is led by Perry, who has posted 18 goals and 27 assists thus far. Following Perry is center Ryan Getzlaf (11G, 33A) and Bobby Ryan (20G, 16A). Ryan is the NHL’s first U.S.-born player to reach 20 goals this season.
- - On the injury front for the Ducks, forwards Joffrey Lupul (leg) and George Parros (hand) are both on injured reserve and unavailable for tonight’s game. Anaheim did welcome back veteran winger Teemu Selanne to the lineup over this past weekend, after missing the previous 17 games with a hand injury. Selanne has a goal in each of the two games since his return, and has been a Bruins killer his entire career, totalling 27 points in the 21 games he has played against Boston.
- In net, the Ducks are led by Jonas Hiller (16-12-2, 2.72GAA). Hiller, who has been in goal for the Ducks for all four games on their current win streak, was named the league’s Second Star of the Week last week, after going 4-0-0 with a 1.50GAA and .954 save percentage. He has been the biggest reason why Anaheim has crept back into the playoff picture in the West. Hiller is backed up by veteran netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere (4-7-5, 3.06GAA).
- Two current Ducks have time in Boston on their resumes. Center Petteri Nokelainen, who played for Boston in 90 games between 2007 and 2009, has four goals and four assists this season for Anaheim. Nokelainen was traded to the Ducks at last season’s trade deadline in exchange for defenseman Steve Montador. Also a familiar face on the Ducks roster is former Bruin first round pick Nick Boynton. Boynton, Boston’s first rounder in 1999, played for the Bruins from ’99 to ’06. Since then, he has jumped around from Phoenix to Florida, and now with Anaheim. In his first season as a Duck, he’s posted a goal and six assists in 37 games. Boynton will celebrate his 31st birthday on Thursday.
- With a win tonight, Bruins head coach Claude Julien will tie former coach Lynn Patrick for 8th on the team’s all-time career win list, at 117.
- Lastly, if you thought the Bruins having six future Olympians on their roster was impressive (Chara & Satan for Slovakia, Bergeron for Canada, Thomas for the U.S., Sturm for Germany, and Krejci for the Czech Republic), Anaheim boasts eight players headed to Vancouver next month to represent their native countries. Bobby Ryan is Anaheim’s lone American Olympian, while the Ducks will send a trio of players to the Canadian Olympic team, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and veteran Scott Niedermayer. Also heading to the Olympics, a pair from Finland (Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne) and a pair from Switzerland (Jonas Hiller and defenseman Luca Sbisa).
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Andrew Ference, Bobby Ryan, Boston Bruins, Byron Bitz, Claude Julien, Corey Perry, Ice Breakers, Jonas Hiller, Marc Savard, Marco Sturm, Mark Stuart, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, Tim Thomas