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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Stars, Thursday February 3rd

The Bruins (29-15-7) return home to icy, slushy Boston tonight to host the Pacific Division leading Dallas Stars (30-16-5) at TD Garden.

These two teams are in very similar positions in their respective conference standings right now. Both teams sit atop their divisions, both teams have 65 points in the standings through 51 games each, and both teams own the third seed in each conference. The Stars do have a little more breathing room in terms of their division lead, with a five-point cushion and games in hand over both San Jose and Anaheim. Boston, on the other hand, has just a two-point lead over second place Montreal, after the Habs swept back-to-back games the past two nights. The B’s do have one game in hand over the Canadiens.

It’s not often we see these two teams face off with each other; in fact, it’s been about 16 months since the Bruins and Stars last did battle, so let’s get acquainted with this Dallas team with today’s pre-game notes…

  • As I just mentioned, Dallas hasn’t faced Boston since October of 2009, in a game that saw the B’s shut out the Stars, 3-0.
  • Boston is coming off a 3-2 victory in Carolina Tuesday, with Tim Thomas winning his third game at the RBC Center in the last 14 days. He beat Carolina before the All Star break, then was the winning goaltender in the All Star Game itself, before topping the ‘Canes in Tuesday’s win. Dallas also played their last game on Tuesday night, falling to the Western Conference’s top team, the Vancouver Canucks, 4-1.
  • In the win Tuesday, Bruins winger Daniel Paille earned his first goal of the season, while Nathan Horton snapped a long cold streak, lighting the lamp for his first goal in the last 11 games.
  • Looking at recent streaks, Boston is headed in the right direction, winners of eight of their 11 games, while Dallas has hit the skids a bit, losing three of their last four. However, if you focus more on how these teams have fared against each opposing conference, the scale flips in Dallas’s favor. The Stars are a dominating 11-2-1 vs. the East this season, while Boston is just 2-4-2 when facing Western Conference foes. Seven of the next 11 games on Boston’s schedule are against teams from the West, so the B’s better hope they improve on that very lackluster Western record.
  • Marc Savard is due in Boston today for a re-evaluation, as he continues to recover from his second concussion in 10 months. Savard, who has been resting at his home in Ontario, was supposed to come down to Boston yesterday, but couldn’t due to weather. It’s expected by many that this re-evaluation will result in the Bruins shutting Savard down for the remainder of the season.
  • Speaking of injuries, Dallas has had their fair share of bumps and bruises to deal with lately. Yesterday, they placed center Tom Wandell on injured reserve as he continues to come back from a shoulder injury. To fill his roster spot, the Stars recalled Raymond Sawada from the AHL. Center Toby Peterson (upper-body injury) is already on IR, while forward Jamie Benn is out short-term with a lower-body injury.
  • Dallas is led on the stat sheet by team captain Brad Richards (20G, 38A), who is fresh off his first career All Star appearance. Another All Star follows Richards among the team’s scoring leaders, with winger Loui Eriksson (18G, 32A) ranked second on the team in points. Third is center Mike Ribiero (10G, 36A).
  • Kari Lehtonen (22-12-5, 2.61GAA) mans the crease for the majority of Dallas’s games, while former Bruin Andrew Raycroft (8-4-0, 2.42GAA) serves as the team’s #2 goalie. Raycroft, who won a Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year back in the 2003-04 season while with Boston, has been on four different teams in the last four seasons, traveling from Toronto to Colorado to Vancouver, and now to Dallas. The now 30-year-old netminder was traded by Boston to Toronto in a deal that netted the B’s their current #2 goalie, Tuukka Rask.
  • Tonight’s pair of head coaches have shared a lot in common over their careers. Born just 10 months apart in Ontario, Claude Julien and Dallas’s Marc Crawford were teammates for five seasons in the AHL, on the Fredericton Express. Both gave up on their playing days at about the same time, turning to coaching instead. Both men have enjoyed success coaching at several levels, with both having won a Jack Adams Trophy each, an award given to the top NHL coach each season.

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