Last 10: Boston 7-2-1; Pittsburgh 5-4-1
Season Series: First of four meetings this season. Boston won the opener on the 2009-10 slate with Tim Thomas recording a 27-save shutout in a 3-0 win on Nov. 10, but Pittsburgh took the next three games, capped by a 17-save shutout performance from Marc-Andre Fleury in a 3-0 win on March 18. Both shutouts came at TD Garden.
Big Story: Any good rivalry has a strong sentiment of dislike between the teams brewing as an undercurrent, and if the spark for that wasn't already there for the Bruins and Penguins then Matt Cooke created it last season in the March 7 contest when he leveled Marc Savard with a hit that led to the Boston center being taken off the ice on a stretcher. Savard suffered a serious concussion on the play and while he eventually returned in the second round of the playoffs to score a dramatic overtime goal against Philadelphia, he has yet to play a game this season after post-concussion symptoms resurfaced over the summer.
Shawn Thornton fought Cooke in the March 18 rematch, but it's certainly possible some of the bad blood created by the hit on Savard carries over into this season.
Bruins: For the first time this season, Boston has lost consecutive games. The Bruins battled hard in Washington last Friday, rallying from a 3-0 deficit to tie the score before falling 5-3, then secured one point Saturday night in a 2-1 shootout loss at home to St. Louis. Tuukka Rask played his best game of the season, making 34 saves, and Gregory Campbell got one past the previously impenetrable Jaroslav Halak with seven minutes left in the third to force overtime, so the game wasn't without its positives.
"An unlucky start for him thus far," forward Milan Lucic said of Rask, who is 0-3-1 this season. "But he was great tonight and kept us in the game."
Penguins: Rookie forward Mark Letestu continued his strong start and helped Pittsburgh salvage a split of its four-game road trip when he beat Ilya Bryzgalov in the third round of the shootout on Saturday for a 4-3 win in Phoenix. It snapped a two-game losing streak for the Penguins. On a down note, Fleury's rough start continued -- he was pulled after giving up goals on two of the Coyotes' first five shots. But Brent Johnson stopped 19 of 20 shots in relief and all three shootout tries against him.
"Obviously, not a result you want from your starting goaltender," Bylsma said of Fleury's start to the Phoenix game. "I thought at that point the best thing for our team was to switch it up."
Who's Hot: Michael Ryder has 2 goals and 2 assists in the Bruins' last three games. Brad Marchand has 1 goal and 3 assists over the same span. … Sidney Crosby has 3 goals in the Penguins' last two games.
Injury Report: Savard is joined on injured reserve for Boston by forwards Marco Sturm (knee surgery) and Trent Whitfield (Achilles surgery). Also out are forward David Krejci (concussion) and defenseman Johnny Boychuk (broken forearm). … Pittsburgh forward Jordan Staal (broken hand) is out indefinitely.
Stat Pack: Thanks to the Bruins' comeback against the Capitals after he was pulled from the game, Thomas is still unbeaten this season at 7-0-0 with an NHL-leading 1.05 goals-against average and .967 save percentage. … Fleury is winless in four starts, but the next one he picks up will be the 150th of his career.
Puck Drop: Boston understands keeping its focus and beating Pittsburgh on the scoreboard rather than in any physical altercation that might occur is the primary order of business -- while the home fans roared their approval of Thornton's actions in dealing with Cooke last March, they had little else to cheer that night as the Penguins were the better team.
"That's my job and I wanted to make the point to try to get the guys going," Thornton said back then. "The fact is that we didn't bring the energy we needed right after that spark … it wasn't the emotion level we needed for a win."