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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Hurricanes, Tuesday January 18th

The Bruins (25-13-7) hit the road this evening, heading south to Raleigh to take on a familiar foe, the Carolina Hurricanes (22-17-6).

It was just over 24 hours ago that the B’s beat down the ‘Canes at TD Garden, wrapping up a four-game homestand with a 7-0 trouncing of Carolina. There were all sorts of standout performances in yesterday’s “MLK Day Matinee Massacre,” but the two that led the way were the team’s pair of All Stars, with goalie Tim Thomas notching his league-leading seventh shutout of the season, and captain Zdeno Chara scoring three times on the afternoon, giving the 13-year veteran his first career hat trick.

The win gave the B’s a 3-1-0 record on their homestand, having scored 22 total goals in the four games, with six or more goals in three of those four contests.

Across the ice, the ‘Canes don’t have to wait long to seek their revenge for the whipping they took Monday afternoon. Despite the loss, Carolina has just two regulation defeats in their last 11 games, a stretch that has seen them go 6-2-3 and pull within three points of Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Carolina has three games in hand on Atlanta, which also helps their cause.

Even though tonight’s opponent remains the same, there’s still plenty to chat about heading into this evening’s skate… so without further ado, let’s throw down some pregame notes…

– Tonight marks the third of four meetings between these two teams. Both prior meetings were shutouts, with Carolina winning 3-0 the day after Thanksgiving, and Boston winning 7-0 yesterday.

– Thomas’s seventh shutout of the season brought his Vezina-caliber stats down to a 1.84GAA and .944 save pct., both good for tops in the league.

– Chara’s hat trick was the fourth ever by a Bruins’ defenseman. Can you name the other three B’s blueliners with hat tricks on their resume? The answer is further down… so keep reading!

– With their recent streak of success, Boston has climbed into the #2 spot in the Eastern Conference, with 57 points. Tampa and Washington also have 57 points, but Boston has a game in hand on both teams. The B’s still only have a two-point advantage on divisional rival Montreal for the top spot in the Northeast.

– Boston welcomed back two previously injured players to their lineup in yesterday’s win, with Milan Lucic and Mark Stuart back in action. Stuart, who missed 18 games with a broken finger on his right hand, scored the game’s first goal, his first goal of the season.

– Andrew Ference remains a game-time decision this evening. He did travel with the team and could crack the lineup depending on how he feels before the game. The Hurricanes have no notable injuries to report.

– With all this offensive output from the Black and Gold recently, there are plenty of Bruins forwards that boast impressive point totals lately. Leading that charge has been Patrice Bergeron, who has five goals in his last four games, 12 points in his last seven games, and 21 points in his last 16. Michael Ryder, a free-agent-to-be after this season, has turned it on as of late, with goals in three straight contests. Center Gregory Campbell has provided a spark from the team’s fourth line also, putting up three goals and four assists in his last five games.

– Carolina’s scoring is led by team captain Eric Staal (22G, 24A), who along with Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, was named as one of the team captains for the upcoming NHL All Star Game, to be played in Raleigh on January 30th. By being deemed captain, he and Lidstrom will go back and forth in the first All Star Fantasy Draft, choosing the teams that will face off with each other in the All Star Game and SuperSkills competitions being held that weekend.

– Behind Staal on the stat sheet for the ‘Canes: winger Tuomo Ruutu (12G, 24A), rookie center Jeff Skinner (16G, 20A), and winger Jussi Jokinen (10G, 23A).

– Cam Ward minds the net for the majority of Carolina’s contests, although he was pulled after just 12 minutes of action in yesterday’s loss. Those 12 minutes did earn Ward (19-13-5, 2.71GAA) the distinction of being the franchise’s leader in appearances by a goaltender with his 310th, passing Arturs Irbe. Ward is backed up by Justin Peters (3-4-1, 3.88GAA), who came in and made 28 saves yesterday, despite letting in five more Boston goals.

– Ok, who named those three Bruin defensemen who scored hat tricks? You probably got the first two pretty easily… Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque… but the third was a little tougher. The answer? Former Carolina Hurricane, Glen Wesley.

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