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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Penguins, Monday January 10th

The Bruins (21-12-7) will look to rebound from Saturday night’s embarrassing loss this evening, when they skate with the Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins (26-13-4).

The B’s technically still sit atop the Northeast Division standings, tied with Montreal at 49 points, but with two games in hand on the Habs. Boston had their chance to create some separation between them and their rivals Saturday night, when the two combatants faced off head-to-head at the Bell Centre. Up 2-0 with less than three minutes remaining, Montreal scored twice before regulation time was through, to even the score and send the game to OT.  Max Paccioretty then scored the game-winner, completing the shocking comeback and leaving the Bruins without knowing what hit ‘em.

Tonight’s opponent, the Penguins, are adjusting to life without their team’s best player, as team captain Sidney Crosby continues his recovery from a mild concussion sustained last Wednesday against the Lightning. Crosby will miss his third game tonight, with the Pens dropping their first two games without #87, losing 2-1 in OT to Montreal Thursday and 4-0 to the Wild on Saturday. Despite the recent skid, Pittsburgh remains just one point behind Philadelphia for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and in the Eastern Conference as a whole.

Without further ado, here we go with tonight’s pre-game notes…

  • Tonight’s game features top two teams in goals against per game, with Boston ranking first (2.15) and the Pens just behind them in second (2.30). Despite the usual tough defense by these two squads, in their first meeting of the season, the B’s were able to light the lamp seven times, on their way to a 7-4 win back on November 10th.
  • Both teams have just one win in their last five games, with Pittsburgh on a 1-2-2 slide and Boston in the midst of a 1-1-3 slump. On the bright side however, the Bruins have taken at least one point out of seven of their last eight contests. Tonight will mark the 41st game of the season for Boston, which will put them officially at the halfway point of the regular season.
  • Sidney Crosby leads the NHL in points (66) and goals (32), while ranking third in assists (34). Behind Crosby on the Penguins’ stat sheet are defenseman and fellow All-Star Kris Letang (6G, 30A) and center Evgeni Malkin (15G, 19A).
  • Along with Crosby, center Mike Comrie (hip) remains on injured reserve and will miss tonight’s game. Forward Erik Godard (eye) is considered day-to-day, while a trio of Penguins missed yesterday’s practice due to illness. Malkin, forward Chris Conner, and defenseman Brooks Orpik will all be game time decisions.
  • On the Bruins’ side of things, they will also have some lineup changes for tonight. Nathan Horton (undisclosed injury) remains a 50-50 proposition to play tonight, after missing his first game in a Bruins uniform Saturday night in Montreal. Horton did participate in the team’s morning skate, but we’ll have to see if he gives it a go tonight. Adam McQuaid will not play tonight, according to reports, with the team instead turning to recent call-up Matt Bartkowski to see action this evening. Bartkowski came to the Bruins with Dennis Seidenberg in the 2009 trade that sent Byron Bitz, Craig Weller, and a 2010 draft pick to Florida. The Ohio St. product has toiled in Providence for 34 games this season, putting up four goals and eight assists. He’ll make his NHL debut tonight against the team he rooted for as a young boy, growing up in the Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon, PA.
  • Patrice Bergeron is really the only Bruin who has been lighting it up on a hot streak as of late. #37 scored both of Boston’s goals Saturday in Montreal, and now has 12 points (5G, 7A) in his last 11 games. Look for Bergeron to center the team’s second line with Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand at his side this evening.
  • At long last, tonight’s game will mark the first time we’ll see Marc Savard on the ice with Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke since the March 10th hit that shelved Savard for months with a concussion and post-concussion syndrome. When asked this morning about the significance of this game in relation to that hit, Cooke offered no comment at all.
  • In terms of tonight’s goaltending matchup, look for the Penguins to throw “Flower in the cage” tonight (you Sports Hub fans will know that reference), with Marc-Andre Fleury (18-10-2, 2.29GAA) likely to get the starting nod. If “Flower” can’t be found in the “cage” tonight, backup Brent Johnson (8-3-2, 2.04GAA) will go for Pittsburgh. As for Boston, Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice at this morning’s skate, indicating he’s likely to get tonight’s start.
  • Lastly, tonight’s game will again be Jack Edwards-less, as the 7:30 start time can be found on Versus instead of NESN.

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