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The Bruins (38-21-9) look to put their season-long four-game winless streak behind them tonight at Nationwide Arena, as they get set to take on the always pesky Columbus Blue Jackets (32-27-9).
Boston finds themselves still clinging to the top spot in the Northeast Division, but their lead over rival Montreal has dwindled to just two points. The B’s have fallen five points behind the surging Washington Capitals, who sit in second place in the East. Ironically, the Habs host the Caps tonight in a game that Bruin fans will surely be keeping an eye on. The Black and Gold are coming off a pair of really tough losses to end last week’s slate of games, blowing early 2-0 leads in both contests to eventually lose to Buffalo Thursday night and the New York Islanders Friday night. The B’s are 0-2-2 in their last four games after winning a season-high seven games in a row.
As for the Blue Jackets, they know all there is to know about losing streaks, as it seems like their club has been in one for all ten years of their existence. Having only appeared in the playoffs once, Columbus is already relegated to playing the spoiler role for the rest of this season, as they sit a seemingly insurmountable eight points back of Calgary for the final playoff spot out west. The Jackets had lost a season-high seven straight games recently, until they snapped that run Saturday night when they topped Carolina, 3-2.
It’s not too often the B’s and Jackets meet up, so let’s get you acquainted with tonight’s opponent and get you ready for the game with some pre-game notes…
Tonight marks the one and only meeting between these two squads. Last year, Columbus beat Boston in their only game together, 3-2, back on January 21st, 2010. The Blue Jackets haven’t lost to Boston at home since November of 2003.
The Bruins had plenty of early-season struggles against the Western Conference, starting out with a dismal 3-7-2 record against the best of the west. Since then, they’ve reeled off three straight victories over Western foes, beating Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton. After tonight, the B’s have just two more meetings with Western Conference opponents; Thursday in Nashville, and March 29th when they host Chicago. In contrast, the Blue Jackets have been Eastern Conference killers this season, posting a very impressive 10-2-1 mark against the East.
During their four-game skid, Boston has allowed on average 38 shots per game. The team is now tied with Carolina for allowing the most shots per game this season, at 33.3. The B’s do shoot the puck almost just as much however, ranking fourth in the NHL at 33.0 shots per game.
Defensemen Steven Kampfer (concussion) and Andrew Ference (leg) returned to practice the past few games, which prompted the Bruin front office to send youngster Matt Bartkowski back down to Providence. Either Kampfer or Ference, or possibly both, will be ready to rejoin the lineup tonight in Columbus. Who the healthy scratch will be amongst the blueliners is yet to be determined.
Speaking of Boston blueliners, Zdeno Chara missed a day of practice this past weekend as he dealt with flu-like symptoms. He did return to Ristuccia Arena for yesterday’s practice and is with the team in Columbus, planning to play.
The top of the Columbus stat sheet leads off with All Star veteran Rick Nash (29G, 31A), followed by another pair of wingers, R.J. Umberger (21G, 29A) and Jakub Voracek (14G, 31A).
Goaltending for the Blue Jackets is handled by Steve Mason (23-17-4, 3.01GAA) and Mathieu Garon (9-10-5, 2.61GAA).