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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Blackhawks, Friday 12/18

While the focus for many area hockey fans has turned to the preparations for the upcoming Winter Classic game at Fenway, the Bruins still have seven games to go before the big festivities. That schedule begins this evening in Chicago, where Boston (16-10-6) will face off against the Central Division leading Blackhawks (21-8-3) in the first of a back-to-back pair of games against fellow Original Six members. Boston will travel to Toronto for a game against the Leafs tomorrow evening.

Boston’s blue line corps has been bitten by the injury bug as of late. The B’s will be without Dennis Wideman tonight, as he sits with an undisclosed injury, while tonight will be the first game missed by workhorse Mark Stuart, who will be sidelined for up to six weeks with a broken sternum, which he suffered in the game Monday evening against Philadelphia. Stuart hasn’t missed a game since his NHL debut, a streak that will end tonight.

In their place, the Bruins have called up AHL’ers Adam McQuaid and Andy Wozniewski from Providence. One will make their Bruins debut tonight, while the other will likely serve as a healthy scratch. Expect to see Chara, Morris, Ference, Hunwick, Boychuk, and either McQuaid or Wozniewski on the ice this evening.

Let’s now look a little closer at tonight’s matchup in the Windy City…

  • Boston swept the pair of meetings last season over Chicago. In fact, Chicago hasn’t beaten the B’s since Valentine’s Day of 2004.
  • The Blackhawks will go for their third straight shutout tonight, as they try to build on shutout victories over Tampa Bay and St. Louis earlier this week to open their current 5-game homestand.
  • Tonight’s matchup will feature the league’s top two penalty-killing units, as Boston (86.2%) and Chicago (85.5%) rank #1 and #2, respectively.
  • On the stat sheet, the ‘Hawks are led by youngster Patrick Kane, who celebrated his 21st birthday earlier this week. Kane leads the team with 10 goals and 23 assists. Following Kane is defenseman Duncan Keith (5G, 20A), winger Patrick Sharp (9G, 15A), and center Jonathan Toews (9G, 12A). Veteran star Marian Hossa, who has only appeared in 10 games thus far due to injury, already has 5 goals and 5 assists in his short time on the ice this season.
  • Early indications from both teams point to tonight’s goalie matchup featuring Blackhawks backup goalie Antti Niemi (6-1-4, 1.50 GAA) going up against reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Boston’s Tim Thomas.

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