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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Hurricanes, Sunday 1/24

For the first time in a long time, the Bruins (23-19-8) wake up this morning to find themselves on the outside looking in on the Eastern Conference playoff picture. After Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Ottawa, coupled with wins from other teams in the East, Boston now finds themselves down to fourth in the Northeast Division, and tie for ninth in the conference.

If you think that’s depressing, turn your attention to today’s opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes (15-28-7). Since their Game 7 overtime victory over Boston in the second round of last season’s playoffs, nothing has gone right for the ‘Canes. They got swept in the Conference Finals by Pittsburgh, and this season, they have been in the conference cellar for nearly the duration of this season.

Needless to say, if Boston can’t win a game like this, don’t get your hopes up for playoff hockey at the Garden this spring.

Let’s take a closer look at today’s matchup with some news and notes from both teams…

  • This will be the second meeting between these two teams. Boston beat the ‘Canes 7-2 in probably their best game of the season, way back in early October. Seven different Bruins had goals in that game.
  • Boston has now won just once in their last eight games (1-6-1), while Carolina has just one win in their last five (1-4-0). Both teams are coming off Saturday afternoon losses, as Boston fell to Ottawa 2-1 and Carolina lost to the Flyers, 4-2.
  • If you look at the very bottom of the league’s goals per game rankings, that’s where you’ll find these two teams. Carolina is currently ranked 29th at 2.48 g/gm., with Boston ranking dead last, at 2.40.
  • Carolina recently made news when management decided to switch the team’s captaincy over to young superstar Eric Staal. Veteran Rod Brind’Amour had been the team’s captain. Staal opened his captaincy with a hat trick in his first game with the “C.” Staal has four goals and three assists during his current four-game points streak.
  • Staal (14 G, 23 A) and winger Ray Whitney (15 G, 22 A) sit atop the team’s stat sheet, tied with 37 points each. They are followed by forward Jussi Jokinen (14 G, 20 A).
  • In goal, the ‘Canes are led by Cam Ward (10-19-5, 2.88 GAA), who before Saturday, had started the team’s last 17 games. Manny Legace (4-5-2, 3.10 GAA) generally backs up Ward. He started Saturday’s game against Philadelphia, but was forced to leave the game late in the first period when a case of pink eye blurred his vision. It is likely Ward will be back in the crease today.
  • Boston’s Tim Thomas has won his last five starts against the Hurricanes, posting a 1.58 GAA in those games. With Thomas having played yesterday though, we could see Tuukka Rask in net instead.
  • Injuries have been the story for both teams this season. For Boston, Marco Sturm (leg), Byron Bitz (undisclosed), and Steve Begin (undisclosed) remain questionable to face Carolina today, while center Marc Savard (knee) is likely to return Friday in Buffalo. Defenseman Andrew Ference (groin) is also out, and will likely return after the Olympic break. For the ‘Canes, they will be without defenseman Joe Corvo (leg), along with forwards Scott Walker (shoulder), Tuomo Ruutu (upper body), and Erik Cole (upper body).
  • Plenty of ex-Bruins on the Carolina roster right now, with a group of four ‘Canes having spent time in Black and Gold. Forward Sergei Samsonov and defenseman Andrew Alberts spent time with the B’s in the early 2000′s, while more recently, center Stephane Yelle and veteran defenseman Aaron Ward were Bruins as recently as last season.

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