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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Thrashers, Wednesday 12/23

With just one point separating the two teams in the Eastern Conference standings, the Bruins (17-11-7) will look to gain some separation in the playoff race, as they host the Atlanta Thrashers (18-13-4) at TD Garden this evening.

The Bruins are coming off a 2-0 shutout win over division rival Ottawa on Monday night in a game that has been regarded as goalie Tim Thomas’s best of the year thus far. Early indications from this morning’s pregame skate point to Thomas returning to the crease for tonight’s matchup.

Atlanta will look to rebound from a crushing defeat Monday night to the Canadiens. The Thrashers gave up two late goals to Montreal, then eventually lost in overtime, 4-3. The loss wasn’t due to a lack of offensive effort though, as Atlanta set a franchise record in the game, peppering Montreal goalie Carey Price with 50 shots on goal.

Here now we dive a little deeper into some pregame appetizers, before tonight’s main course…

  • In their only previous meeting on the season, Boston escaped Atlanta with a 4-3 shootout win back in mid-November. Patrice Bergeron scored the lone shootout goal while Michael Ryder added two goals in regulation.
  • Atlanta has now lost seven straight games to the Bruins.
  • Tonight will mark the 200th game of head coach Claude Julien’s Bruins career.
  • Boston will remain shorthanded on the blue line, with Derek Morris missing his third straight game tonight with an undisclosed injury, while Mark Stuart continues to recover from a broken sternum. Winger Milan Lucic is nearing a return, aiming to come back from his high ankle sprain before the team’s uber-hyped Winter Classic game at Fenway January 1st. (Still plenty of great seats available…if you don’t mind selling off your first-born kid.)
  • Atlanta’s scoring is led by all-world winger Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk, who could be sent packing by the Thrashers come trade deadline time later this season, leads the team with 20 goals and 17 assists. He has 10 points in his last 7 games. Behind Kovalchuk on the stat sheet is center Rich Peverley (12G, 21A), and wingers Maxim Afinogenov (12G, 19A) and Nik Antropov (9G, 22A). Antropov, the former Maple Leaf and Ranger, has 7 goals in his last 7 games.
  • In net, it has yet to be settled whether Atlanta will start Ondrej Pavelec (9-9-5, 3.28GAA) or Johan Hedberg (9-4-2, 2.44GAA).
  • Boston will have to beware of the shorthanded strike tonight. Atlanta currently ranks 2nd in the league with five shorthanded goals already this year. Chicago leads the NHL with six.

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