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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Penguins, Saturday March 5th

The Bruins (38-19-7) look to extend their season-long win streak to eight tonight, when they host the hated Matt Cooke and the Pittsburgh Penguins (37-21-8) at TD Garden.

We already know that the Penguins will be shorthanded tonight, with their two stars, Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee) sidelined long term with their injuries. But unfortunately, the Bruins will also be down a few bodies this evening. Defenseman Steven Kampfer, who absorbed a nasty hit by Tampa’s Mattias Ritola in Thursday night’s 2-1 Bruins win, sustained a mild concussion and will be out of action for at least a week. With Andrew Ference still sidelined as well, the B’s called up Pittsburgh native Matt Bartkowski to fill the blue line void. Bartkowski appeared in two games back in January for Boston, with both of those contests coming against the Penguins as well. Tonight, he will complete the Penguin trifecta.

Also missing from tonight’s lineup will be the team’s leading point producer, Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron left the team yesterday to attend to a personal matter, an issue that will cost Bergeron his first game missed this season. The team expects #37 to return to Boston for practice on Monday.

So tonight, we’ll see two talented teams square off without the help of some of their most talented team members. Nonetheless, we’re in for a good one this evening at the Gahhh-den. Here now, are some pre-game notes to get you amped up for the B’s-Pens…

– Tonight marks the fourth and final meeting between these two Eastern Conference powerhouses. The road team has won all three previous meetings, with Boston taking the first two in Pittsburgh, then the Pens stealing a narrow 3-2 win in Boston back on January 15th.

– With Bergeron’s unavailability tonight, head coach Claude Julien juggled his forward lines at practice yesterday, with the newly acquired Rich Peverley moving up to center the second line between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi. Tyler Seguin will jump up to the team’s third line, with Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder, and the first line (Krejci-Lucic-Horton) and fourth line (Campbell-Thornton-Paille) will stay intact.

– Pittsburgh lost last night in overtime to New Jersey, 2-1. The Pens are 8-3-2 on the second half of back-to-backs this season, but are 3-7-3 in their last 13 games. The Penguins haven’t won a game in regulation in over a month, since their win over Buffalo on February 4th. Despite their recent troubles, Pittsburgh remains entrenched in fourth place in the East, just four points behind Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead.

– Pittsburgh’s scoring leader is still Sidney Crosby (32G, 34A), despite having only appeared in 41 games this season. Behind Crosby, you’ll find defenseman Kris Letang (8G, 38A), winger James Neal (21G, 18A), and the injured Evgeni Malkin (15G, 22A in 43 games).

– Goaltending is led by Marc-Andre Fleury (28-16-5, 2.37GAA), along with Brent Johnson (9-5-3, 2.24GAA). Johnson got the start last night against the Devils, so expect to see Fleury get the nod this evening.

– Lastly, the Bruins’ popularity seems to be on the rise with their recent success. Thursday’s win over the Lightning drew NESN’s highest ratings for a B’s game this season, drawing an impressive 4.6 TV rating. That mark tops the previous record, set just a few weeks ago for the 8-6 win over Montreal, which drew a 4.3.

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