With the All Star hoopla behind them, the Boston Bruins (28-15-7) will travel south to meet up with All Stars Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara in Raleigh, as they prepare to face All Stars Eric Staal, Cam Ward, Jeff Skinner, and the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes (25-19-6) this evening.
Thomas and Chara were featured players throughout the All Star festivities in Raleigh this past weekend. On Friday night, the NHL’s first All Star Fantasy Draft was held, with our pair of Bruin representatives drafted by opposing teams. Chara would be drafted in the fourth round by Team Staal, while Thomas was one of three goaltenders chosen by Team Lidstrom. Saturday night at the SuperSkills competition, it was Chara who stole the show in the hardest shot competition, breaking his own record by firing a 105.9mph shot to win the contest. Sunday in the All Star game itself, it was Tim Thomas who got the third period assignment for Team Lidstrom, and despite letting in four goals in the period, the Bruin goalie earned the win, as Team Lidstrom edged Team Staal, 11-10. For Thomas, it was the third straight All Star game where he served as the winning goaltender.
But now that the All Star fun is over, it’s back to business for both of these squads. Both teams have just 32 games remaining on their regular season schedule, and both have little room for error if they have the playoffs in their sights. Boston has a four-point cushion atop the Northeast Division over second place Montreal, and sits in third place in the Eastern Conference with their 63 points. Carolina however, sits outside of the eight-team playoff picture in the East, but with their pre-break surge, sit just one point behind eighth place Atlanta, with two games in hand on the Thrashers.
Back to regular season hockey tonight, so let’s get you ready for it by throwing some pre-game notes your way…
- Tonight marks the fourth and final meeting between Boston and Carolina. The ‘Canes won the first game back in November, 3-0 at TD Garden, before the B’s swept a home-and-home series just a few weeks ago over Carolina, 7-0 at home and 3-2 the following night down in Raleigh.
- The youngest and oldest Bruins had something to celebrate over the last day or two, with Tyler Seguin turning 19 yesterday and Mark Recchi celebrating his 43rd birthday today. Seguin was a part of the All Star SuperSkills competition as well on Saturday, participating with 11 other rookies. Representing Team Staal with Zdeno Chara, Seguin won his round of the hardest shot competition with a modest 97mph slapper. Recchi, while not an All Star this season, has obviously had a Hall of Fame worthy career. Despite being the oldest player in the NHL, Recchi is tie with four other skaters in the league with his six game-winning goals this season.
- More good news out of Bruins camp, as center Patrice Bergeron was named the NHL’s First Star of the Month yesterday for the month of January. Bergeron had eight goals, nine assists, and a +13 rating in the team’s 14 games last month, which included Bergeron’s first career hat trick back on the 11th against Ottawa. Phoenix Coyote defenseman and Milton, MA native Keith Yandle and Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne were named Second and Third Star, respectively.
- Now some good news that could have been bad news… Nathan Horton looks to have escaped injury at practice yesterday and should be fine to suit up tonight. Horton left practice early after being struck with a shot in the right knee. The knee has bruised, but Horton seemed confident after practice yesterday that he’d be fine to skate in the lineup this evening.
- Ok, I’m all out of good news, time for some bad news, and it of course revolves around the condition of Marc Savard. Savard has been resting at his home in Peterborough, Ontario for almost a week, recovering from his latest concussion suffered January 22nd in Colorado. The concussion was the fourth of his career and second in the last 10 months. On Wednesday, weather permitting of course, Savard is scheduled to return to Boston to be re-evaluated by team doctors. There is a good chance, according to other reports yesterday, that depending on how tomorrow’s evaluation goes, GM Peter Chiarelli may make the decision to shut down Savard for the remainder of the season, placing him on long term injured reserve. By doing that, the team could exceed the NHL salary cap by Savard’s annual cap hit, which is just over $4 million
- Turning our attention now to the Hurricanes, Carolina enjoyed a good amount of success in January, especially at home. They are 10-4-2 in their last 16 games, including a 6-1-1 record at home in January. Their only regulation loss at home last month came to the Bruins in that 3-2 loss back on January 18th.
- The Hurricanes are one of just four teams left in the league that haven’t blown a lead heading into the third period. The Rangers, Kings, and Avalanche are the others who have protected every lead they’ve had after two periods.
- Carolina’s scoring is led by captain Eric Staal (25G, 27A), whose All Star captaincy ended in defeat Sunday, losing 11-10 in front of his hometown fans. Behind Staal on the score sheet is winger Tuomo Ruutu (12G, 28A) and rookie All Star, Jeff Skinner (18G, 22A). Skinner, at age 18, became the youngest All Star ever in any of the four major sports.
- Goaltending for the ‘Canes is led by All Star Fantasy Draft first pick overall, Cam Ward (22-15-5, 2.70GAA) and backup Justin Peters (3-4-1, 3.88GAA).
- The B’s should be able to exploit two glaring weaknesses against Carolina tonight; on the power play and at the faceoff dot. Carolina ranks 25th on the penalty kill at an unimpressive 78.9%, compared to Boston’s 4th-ranked 85%. The ‘Canes have given up nine goals on the man-advantage in their last 10 games. In the faceoff circle, only Edmonton is worse than Carolina at winning faceoffs, with Carolina’s percentage at a woeful 43.9%. Boston’s 50.8% ranks 11th league-wide.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes, Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Marc Savard, Mark Recchi, Nathan Horton, Tim Thomas, Tuomo Ruutu, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara