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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Sharks, Saturday February 5th

The Bruins (30-15-7), fresh off their beatdown of the Stars Thursday night, will host old friend Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks (27-19-6) in a matinee affair at the Garden this afternoon.

For Boston, today’s game will be the second of four straight at home. They kicked off the homestand in grand fashion Thursday, in a game loaded with goals, fights, and just overall entertainment. The 6-3 win over Dallas marked their ninth victory in their last 12 games, helping them stay atop the Northeast Division, four points ahead of second place Montreal, and also inched them closer to the other division leaders, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, in the conference standings. With a win today over San Jose, Boston could tie the Lightning for the East’s second seed [and hold it with more non-shootout wins.]

Over on the Sharks’ side, after sputtering through much of the season’s first half, San Jose has been one of the hottest teams lately, winning six of their last seven, vaulting them to a tie for fifth in the Western Conference with Anaheim, and just five points back in the Pacific Division, behind Dallas. Wednesday night, the Sharks kicked off a season-long seven-game road trip, beating the Ducks 4-3. The Sharks will play up and down the East Coast for the next week or so before they return to the Shark Tank later this month.

It’s always fun when Jumbo Joe’s new team comes to Causeway Street, so let’s get you ready for the action with today’s pre-game notes…

– The B’s and Sharks face off just once this season. Last season, the Bruins edged San Jose 2-1 out west, winning the shootout in the fourth round on a Zdeno Chara goal.

– The Bruins will be without forward Daniel Paille for a while, after the NHL levied a four-game suspension on the winger for his hit to the head of Stars forward Ray Sawada Thursday. Paille will be eligible to return February 15th against Toronto. In the meantime, the B’s called up young center Zach Hamill to fill Paille’s void. The 22-year-old Hamill led the Providence Bruins with 25 assists this season. This is his second career call-up to the NHL, having played in one of the team’s final games last season, earning an assist in a matchup with the Capitals last April.

– Now for our daily Marc Savard update. Savvy met with team doctors yesterday in Boston, after making the trip down from his home in Peterborough, Ontario, where he had been resting for the past two weeks. Savard and his agent, Larry Kelly, will sit down with GM Peter Chiarelli today to discuss the center’s immediate future, with a decision likely to be made public early next week. Many reports still indicate that Savard’s season is all but over.

– One Bruins center that has certainly picked up his production in Savard’s absence is Patrice Bergeron. #37 leads the team in points, and scored another two goals in Thursday’s first period, his 10th career multi-goal game. Bergeron now has 11 goals and nine assists in his last 14 games. His linemate, rookie Brad Marchand, is also on a hot streak as of late, with four goals and four assists in his last five contests.

– Flipping our focus over to San Jose, they have a pair of hot forwards riding four-game point streaks currently, with Devin Setoguchi (3G, 3A) and Ryane Clowe (3G, 2A) hopping to keep their streaks alive today in Boston.

– San Jose’s top rookie, Logan Couture, has missed the team’s last two games due to illness, and is considered a game-time decision today. Couture leads all NHL rookies with 22 goals. Also out of action for the Sharks are goalie Antero Niittymaki and forward Torrey Mitchell, both on IR with lower body injuries.

– Scoring for the Sharks is led by former Bruin, Joe Thornton (14G, 32A), followed by wingers Dany Heatley (19G, 26A) and Ryane Clowe (14G, 27A).

– With Niittymaki (12-6-3, 2.54GAA) battling injury, the brunt of the workload has fallen to last year’s Stanley Cup hero, goaltender Antti Niemi (14-13-3, 2.75GAA). Niemi backstopped the Blackhawks to the Cup last spring, then joined the Sharks in the offseason.

– Niemi and Tim Thomas, today’s expected starting goalies, will likely face plenty of work in today’s skate, with the league’s top two teams in shots per game squaring off. San Jose leads the NHL with 34.1 shots per game, while Boston is right behind them in second place, at 34.0.

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