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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Lightning, Thursday March 3rd

It had to end some time, and unfortunately, that end came on Tuesday night in Ottawa. Now, the Bruins (37-19-7) return home to TD Garden from their season-long six-game road trip, to host the high-flying Tampa Bay Lightning (37-19-7) this evening.

6-0-0. Looks pretty nice, doesn’t it? That was the record the Bruins put up during their recent six-game voyage. The Bruins haven’t had a road trip as successful as that in 39 years, when the ’71-’72 version of the B’s won six straight on the road in late February of 1972. That version of the Bruins, just in case the team’s history escapes you, was the last Bruins team to bring a Stanley Cup to Boston.

As for Tampa Bay, their had a three-game win streak of their own snapped last night in the Garden State, losing to the resurgent New Jersey Devils, 2-1. The ‘Ning and the B’s head into tonight’s game knotted with identical records, tie for second place in the Eastern Conference, just five points back from East-leading Philadelphia. Boston has a somewhat comfortable six-point cushion for their division’s lead, but Tampa enjoys just a three-point advantage over second-place Washington in the tight Southeast Division race.

There sure is plenty of hype heading into this big matchup tonight, so let’s get your juices flowing with some pre-game notes…

  • Tonight marks the fourth and final meeting between these two juggernauts this season. After Tampa edged the B’s in the first matchup, the Bruins roared back to win the next two games in December, including a thunderous 8-1 beatdown of the Lightning the last time Tampa visited TD Garden. “Thunderous”… “Lightning”… get it? Or is my high-brow brand of humor lost on you people?
  • Andrew Ference will be sidelined again tonight and also at least on Saturday night too. Ference, whose “undisclosed” injury has turned now into a “leg” injury, could skate early next week, according to coach Claude Julien. GM Peter Chiarelli mentioned a few days back that it could be up to two weeks before we see Ference back in the lineup.
  • According to reports from the team’s morning skate, all indications point to Daniel Paille taking the fourth line winger duties from Tyler Seguin this evening. Seguin, who stayed late at practice with the recently acquired Shane Hnidy, is in line to be a healthy scratch for the fifth time here in his rookie season.
  • Speaking of rookies, take a guess at who leads the NHL in plus/minus right now. Just guess, don’t go Googling it. Fine, you’re lazy… the answer? Bruins rookie, Adam McQuaid. It’s true, McQuaid’s +27 ranks atop the entire league, not to mention another Bruins rookie, Brad Marchand, ranking fourth with his +24. Pretty impressive, if you ask me. Did you ask?
  • From rookie news to Recchi news… 43-year-old Mark Recchi will tie Scott Stevens tonight for sixth place on the all-time games played list, at 1,635. That assumes someone can get his Depends changed and his orthopedic shoes off before game time.
  • Boston’s +47 goal differential is good for tops in the Eastern Conference, and second behind only Vancouver’s +59 in the entire league. In contrast, Tampa Bay, who has the same exact record as the Bruins have, have a goal differential of zero, scoring and letting up 192 goals a piece.
  • The team’s current six-game win streak is the longest streak going in the East, but two teams out West have matched or beaten that mark. Chicago is also riding a six-game win streak, while the super-hot San Jose Sharks are winners of seven straight games.
  • Turning to the ‘Ning, Tampa will be without forward Ryan Malone and defenseman Mike Lundin this evening, as both remain sidelined with abdominal injuries.
  • The Lightning feature a two-headed monster atop their stat sheet, led by center Steven Stamkos (41G, 37A) and supported by winger Martin St. Louis (24G, 51A). Stamkos is just one point behind NHL points leader Daniel Sedin, and has eight more goals than any other skater in the league, topping Chicago’s Patrick Sharp and Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, who rank tie for second. St. Louis ranks third in points, and is tie with Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg for second in assists, eight behind the other Sedin brother, Henrik. St. Louis had a nine-game points streak snapped in Tampa’s 2-1 loss to New Jersey last night.
  • - Tampa’s goaltending is now led by recently acquired veteran Dwayne Roloson (18-20-2, 2.64GAA), who accumulated most of those numbers earlier this season, toiling away on Long Island for the New York Islanders. His backup is Mike Smith (10-5-0, 3.20GAA).

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