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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Blue Jackets, Thursday 1/21

The Bruins (23-17-8) will look to eliminate the bad taste left in their mouths after Monday’s 5-1 flop at the hands of the Senators, when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets (19-24-9) tonight at TD Garden.

Boston’s lack of offensive punch has proven costly of late, as the B’s have dropped their last three home games scoring a total of only four goals. With the team’s leading goal scorer Marco Sturm out again tonight with a leg injury, along with the team missing forwards Steve Begin and Byron Bitz, both with undisclosed injuries, the B’s will have to find offensive answers elsewhere on their roster.

For Columbus, their offense hasn’t been the problem, it’s been their goaltending that has let them down this season. The Blue Jackets have put in 12 goals in their last three games, but only have one win to show for it. The goalie tandem of Steve Mason and Mathieu Garon have struggled all season long, especially Mason, who has seemingly lost the “#1 goalie” moniker on the team, in favor of Garon.

Both teams come into tonight’s matchup with just one win in their last five games. While the Blue Jackets are already booking tee times for the spring, having dropped to 14th place in the West, the Bruins still have a lot to play for. Boston currently sits in the 7th spot in the East, but are just three points away from dropping out of the conference’s top eight.

Let’s now take a closer look at some news and notes heading into tonight’s skate at the Garden…

  • In their last meeting, Columbus’s Mason outmatched Boston’s Tim Thomas, shutting out the Bruins 2-0 last March. Mason finished second behind Thomas in last season’s Vezina Trophy voting.
  • This will be only the fourth visit to Boston for the young Blue Jackets franchise. Boston has won two of the three previous meetings at the Garden.
  • On top of the injuries to Sturm, Begin, and Bitz, the Bruins are still without the services of forward Marc Savard (knee) and defenseman Andrew Ference (groin). Savard skated for the second straight day this morning and hopes to practice with the team tomorrow. He has targeted next Friday’s game Buffalo for a potential return. With only 11 healthy forwards remaining, the B’s recalled Drew Larman from Providence. Larman will skate on Boston’s fourth line tonight.
  • Defenseman Mike Commodore (leg) is the only notable injury for Columbus. Commodore was scratched before Columbus’s last game on Tuesday night in Philadelphia, and is questionable for tonight’s game.
  • According to early reports from this morning’s pre-game skate for both teams, all signs point to tonight’s goalie matchup featuring Boston’s Tuukka Rask being opposed by Steve Mason (11-16-6, 3.32 GAA). Mason will be backed up tonight by Mathieu Garon (8-8-3, 2.80 GAA).
  • The Blue Jackets have a trio of forwards that have led the way as of late. Over the past three games, captain Rick Nash has notched four goals, while wingers R.J. Umberger has five points and Kristian Huselius has seven.
  • Overall, Rick Nash leads the scoring this season for Columbus with 23 goals and 24 assists on the year. Following Nash on the stat sheet is Huselius (15 G, 25 A) and center Antoine Vermette (14 G, 24 A).
  • Lastly, a familiar face for Bruins fans just joined the Blue Jackets a few short weeks ago. Defenseman Milan Jurcina, a former 8th-round pick of Boston, was acquired by Columbus in a trade on December 28th, along with winger Chris Clark, from Washington in exchange for forward Jason Chimera. Jurcina, who has no points in his first ten games as a Blue Jacket, left Boston in 2007, when he was traded to the Caps for a fourth round pick…a pick the Bruins eventually traded away to Calgary in the deal that brought Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew to Boston. Jurcina will join Bruins captain Zdeno Chara next month, manning the blue line in the Olympics for Slovakia.

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