Last stop: Raleigh, NC.
It’s been a bumpy road for the Bruins (30-26-12), who make their seventh and final stop on their season-long road trip this evening, where tonight they will take on the resurgent Carolina Hurricanes (28-32-8). Don’t look now, but once the laughing stock of the league, the ‘Canes have rebounded in astounding fashion, now just two wins and eight points behind Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot. Their playoff hopes are still a long shot, but to still have hopes of the postseason at all is a major accomplishment for a team that seemed out of contention by Christmas.
Instead, since beating the Bruins on January 24th, the ‘Canes have gone an impressive 13-4-1, and since losing starting goalie Cam Ward to injury just before the Olympic break, Manny Legace and Justin Peters have backstopped the team to a 9-3-0 record.
Meanwhile, the B’s just keep on floundering around mediocrity. Last night, it was Tim Thomas who dug the team into a deep hole, giving up three first period goals to New Jersey on just 10 shots. It was a deficit the team just couldn’t come back from, as the team fell to Martin Brodeur and the Devils, 3-2. With a win tonight, the B’s could post an even 3-3-1 record on the road trip, before heading back to Boston for Thursday’s highly anticipated meeting with Matt Cooke and the Penguins.
Let’s now zoom in and take a closer look at tonight’s matchup with the former Hartford Whalers (I like to call them the “Hartolina Whalicanes”):
- These two teams have split blowout home wins in their two previous meetings this season, with Boston winning 7-2 in early October, and Carolina taking a 5-1 decision in late January.
- After relieving Tim Thomas in net last night, expect Tuukka Rask to get the start tonight for Boston. Rask stopped the bleeding last night, not giving up a goal after entering the game.
- The B’s have a trio of forwards with mildly impressive hot streak: team points leader Patrice Bergeron has three goals and three assists in his last four games, while linemates David Krejci (1G, 3A in last 3 gms) and Blake Wheeler (3G, 2A in last 3 gms) have finally heated up for the ailing Bruins offense as well.
- Boston will remain without the services of Marc Savard and Andrew Ference for tonight’s skate, while Carolina may get Brandon Sutter (leg) back in the lineup after he missed Saturday’s game (a 4-0 loss to Phoenix). Tim Gleason (undisclosed) is a game-time decision for tonight. In case he can’t go, the ‘Canes have recalled former 2009 Hobey Baker finalist Jamie McBain to the big squad on an emergency basis. If McBain gets the call, he’ll make his NHL debut this evening.
- Scoring for the “Whalicanes” is led by winger Jussi Jokinen (27G, 27A), center Eric Staal (21G, 33A), and veteran Ray Whitney (20G, 31A).
- In goal, Carolina features the replacement duo of Manny Legace (9-5-3, 2.72GAA) and Justin Peters (4-2-0, 2.35GAA).
- Carolina’s penalty kill, at 80.1% isn’t great compared to the rest of the league, but against Boston this season, it’s especially dreadful. In their two previous meetings, Carolina’s PK% is an atrocious 58.3%.
- Lastly, Carolina bench boss Paul Maurice will be coaching his 800th game for the ‘Canes tonight. Maurice is in his second tour of duty with Carolina. His first stint was from 1995-2004, as head honcho of the Hartford Whalers before the team moved down the Atlantic to Raleigh.
Tags: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, David Krejci, Eric Staal, Hartford Whalers, Jussi Jokinen, Patrice Bergeron, Ray Whitney, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask