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The Bruins (17-10-4) find themselves in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference right now. Tonight, they’ll face off with the West’s current eighth seed, the Anaheim Ducks (17-15-4) at TD Garden. Both teams have 38 points, but the Ducks have played five more games than Boston so far this year.
Boston has played pretty well this month, especially at home, where they are 4-0-1 at TD Garden in December. Saturday night, they helped extend the Washington Capitals’ losing streak to eight games, holding on to a 3-2 victory. The B’s had three goals in the opening period, then sat on their heels for the rest of the game, relying on Tim Thomas to make some superhuman saves to earn the win. Washington outshot the Bruins 26-2 in the third period, but with Thomas saving 25 of those 26 shots, the B’s emerged victorious.
Tonight’s opponent, the no-longer-mighty Ducks of Anaheim, find themselves on the fourth stop of their season-long seven-game road trip. They kicked things off last week by beating the Caps in overtime, but followed that up with losses in New York to the Islanders and Saturday night, down in Carolina. They are squarely in the middle of the hotly contested Pacific Division, currently in third where all five teams are separated by just six points.
Before they drop the puck on Causeway Street, let’s throw some pre-game notes your way to help you blow your friends’ minds with hockey knowledge as you’re watching the game tonight…
– With the Canadiens off this evening, a win for Boston would earn them a tie atop the Northeast Division. The B’s are just two points behind the Habs heading into tonight.
– The Ducks swept Boston in their two meetings with the B’s last season. Their first win was a 6-1 drubbing in Boston last October, followed up by a 4-3 win out on the left coast in January.
– It looks as if we’ll have a Daniel Paille sighting on the ice tonight at the Garden. Paille is usually the team’s healthy scratch, but with Brad Marchand absent from this morning’s team skate with an undisclosed injury, it appears that Paille will get the call to fill in on fourth line duty instead.
– Andrew Ference scored on Saturday, which happens about as often as a lineman returning a kick 71 yards. It had been exactly 100 games since the defenseman’s last goal… remember it? Nah, me neither.
– Flipping over to the Anaheim side of things, they will be without forward Aaron Voros, who will be sidelined 3-4 weeks with a fractured orbital bone. Veteran winger Teemu Selanne has missed nine of the team’s last 13 games dealing with a bum groin, but he did play in Saturday’s loss to Carolina and is expected to suit up for tonight’s game.
– The 40-year-old Selanne is among the scoring leaders for the Ducks, with 10 goals and 18 assists on the season. Ahead of him is winger Corey Perry (16G, 22A) and team captain, center Ryan Getzlaf (13G, 22A). Getzlaf has been hot as of late, with five goals and three assists in his last six games.
– Goaltending for Anaheim is led by Jonas Hiller (15-12-3, 2.66GAA), who has started all but six games this season. Hiller’s backup is Curtis McElhinney (2-3-1, 3.11GAA).
– Anaheim has one of the top rookies in the game, defenseman Cam Fowler. With Fowler coming to town, I thought it’d be a good chance for one of my random check-ins with the league’s top draft picks, Tyler Seguin and Edmonton’s Taylor Hall. Through just over a third of the season, it is clearly Hall who has the edge over Boston’s Seguin so far. Hall has 10 goals and nine assists in 31 games for the Oilers, while Seguin has scored just five times with six assists in 29 games. The 19-year-old Fowler, who was a teammate of Taylor Hall last season with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires, also has Seguin’s stats beat, totaling three goals and 14 assists in 30 games with Anaheim. Fowler, who was the 12th overall pick last spring, leads all NHL rookies in ice time, at just over 22 minutes per game.
– Just a quick programming note… tonight’s game will NOT be on NESN (sorry, Jack Edwards fans). Instead, the game can be found on Versus, with a later-than-normal start time of 7:30pm.
– Lastly… did anyone watch “The Price is Right” today? Random question I know, but if you did, you saw cameo appearances from Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin. The pair went on to introduce an NHL-themed showcase that includes a trip to Pittsburgh for their teams’ New Year’s Day meeting in the Winter Classic at Heinz Field.