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The Bruins (27-14-7) wrap up their brief West Coast road trip late this evening, with a 10:30pm ET start at the Staples Center, facing off against the struggling Los Angeles Kings (25-22-1).
While the Kings are coming off a 4-3 win over Phoenix Saturday night, wins have been very hard to come by as of late for the men in purple. L.A. has just three wins in January (3-7-0). Oddly enough, their three wins have all come on Saturdays this month (3-1-0 overall)… the rest of the week, they’re winless (0-7-0) in the year’s first month. That has to be a good sign for the Black and Gold, right?
What isn’t a good sign for the B’s is having to play tonight’s game without Marc Savard. Savard was flown back to Boston yesterday with assistant equipment manager Matt Falconer, and is meeting with doctors today to evaluate the veteran center’s condition. In Saturday’s second period against the Colorado Avalanche, former Bruin Matt Hunwick, who was coincidentally traded to Colorado to make salary cap room for Savard’s return, checked Savard into the end boards. Savard absorbed most of the hit with his left cheek, leaving the game and never returning. He already missed the team’s first 23 games this season with post-concussion syndrome, dating back to the hit to the head he took from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke last March. The fear is that a second concussion could derail Savard’s recovery quite significantly.
But enough about the negative… let’s turn to the positive. The Bruins have a lot to be happy about, coming off an impressive 6-2 win in Colorado that saw both Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand pot two goals a piece. Tonight, they’ll look to improve on their 15-5-4 road record, a mark that’s good for second-best in the league, just behind Philadelphia’s 17-5-3 road record. The B’s are 6-0-3 in their last nine road contests.
Here we go, off and running with tonight’s pre-game notes…
– This will be the second meeting of the season between these two squads. L.A. came into TD Garden back on November 20th and escaped with a narrow 4-3 shootout win over the B’s.
– With Savard out of action, head coach Claude Julien shuffled the forward lines at yesterday’s practice, reuniting center David Krejci with former linemates Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. Daniel Paille, who has generally been the team’s healthy scratch, will skate on the wing on the team’s fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton, while Tyler Seguin will move to center on a line with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. The second forward line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Mark Recchi will remain intact.
– While Boston’s offense has generally been hitting on all cylinders lately, a trio of Bruin forwards have struggled mightily to put the puck in the net recently. David Krejci is goalless in 14 straight games, while new linemate Nathan Horton has just one goal in his last 18 games. Blake Wheeler has also gone cold, scoring just once in his last 12 contests.
– Where would the Bruins be without Tim Thomas this season? Thomas is the runaway favorite at this point for the Vezina Trophy, leading the league in save percentage, goals against average, and tied with the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist with seven shutouts a piece. His latest accolade is being named the NHL’s First Star of the Week last week, after winning his three starts, including one shutout, and giving up just four goals in 106 shots. He is an astounding 8-0-2 in his last 10 starts, so here’s hoping he gets the nod tonight in La-La Land.
– Turning our attention to the Kings, their recent slump has them on the outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, four points behind eighth place San Jose, tied for tenth with St. Louis and Columbus.
– For those of you hoping to see old friend Marco Sturm take on his former mates tonight, you will be sadly disappointed. Sturm will be out of action tonight, as he nurses some tendonitis in his left knee. Sturm has four goals and four assists in 15 games with the Kings, since being dealt from Boston weeks ago for basically a bag of pucks. Scott Parse (hip) will also miss this evening’s game.
– The Kings are led in scoring by center Anze Kopitar (16G, 32A), followed by right wingers Justin Williams (18G, 20A) and Dustin Brown (17G, 19A).
– Goaltending for the Kings features a pair of “Amazing Jonathans;” former UMass Amherst standout Jonathan Quick (20-14-1, 2.22GAA) and backup Jonathan Bernier (5-8-0, 3.08GAA).
– Lastly, we wrap up with today’s All Star Game note of the day. As you know by now, the All Star festivities are being held this coming weekend, with the Fantasy Draft on Friday night, the Honda SuperSkills competition on Saturday night, and the All Star Game itself being played on Sunday afternoon. Well, the musicians that will be performing at Sunday’s All Star Game were announced, and I think I’m not alone in saying, “I’m unimpressed.” First off, The Canadian Tenors will belt out the Canadian National Anthem, while everyone’s favorite American Idol runner-up, Clay Aiken, will have the U.S. National Anthem duties, singing in front of his Raleigh, N.C. hometown crowd. During the first intermission, the crowd will be entertained by the likes of “3 Doors Down”… you know, the band that sang that hit… um… that song… you know… ok, we don’t know, we don’t remember them at all. In fact, we’d like to forget them.