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BRUINS (17-9-1) at BLUE JACKETS (8-16-4)
TV: NESN (HD), FS-OHIO (HD)
Last 10: Boston 7-2-1, Columbus 5-3-2
Season Series: The two teams meet twice in a season for the first time since 2001-02 and only the second time ever. The Bruins took the opener in TD Garden, a 2-1 shootout win on Nov. 17, their second straight since last year's 3-2 shootout victory ended a stretch where the Jackets had won three of four. Overall, the Bruins hold a slight edge with six wins in 11 games since the Jackets' inaugural season of 2000-01.
Big Story: Somebody finally beat the Bruins, then somebody else did it. The B's had started December the same way they ended November -- with a couple more wins, but Ondrej Pavelec and the Jets put the brakes on their 14-0-1 stretch, snuffing out the B's attack in a 39-save, 2-1 regulation win in Winnipeg. Florida's Jose Theodore was one better than Tim Thomas on Thursday, handing the Bruins their first shutout since the third game of the season as the Panthers won 2-0. The Blue Jackets began to break out of their disastrous start in mid-November but are 2-1-1 so far in December -- not bad but they'll need more than that to get back into playoff contention.
Bruins: It's a losing streak. They might be the first regulation losses in over a month, but they came consecutively and with the Maple Leafs still only two points behind in the Northeast Division and last-place Montreal a not-too-distant six back, it's a streak the Bruins don't want to extend. Still, the team is not overly concerned given the effort against the Panthers, a game in which four Boston shots clanged off a post.
"When you shoot 40 shots on net, there's a certain effort that was there that you have to be at least semi-pleased with," coach Claude Julien told the Bruins' website, "but the execution wasn't clean. The decision-making wasn't as sharp as we'd like it to be, and because of that, we didn't get the scoring opportunities we probably wanted, and when we did, we didn't finish."
Blue Jackets: Five of six possible points is the goal this week, and the Jackets have three of four so far with a shootout win in Montreal on Tuesday and an additional point on Thursday opening their five-game homestand against the Predators. It should have been two as Columbus carried a 3-1 lead into the final two minutes of the third period, but Patric Hornqvist made it 3-2 with 1:36 left and Sergei Kostitsyn tied it with 12.1 seconds remaining. Colin Wilson stole the extra point for the Preds 1:45 into overtime for the 4-3 win.
The Jackets spent Friday refining their game along the boards in preparation for another team that does a good job of plugging up the middle of the ice.
"I told the team that was probably our smartest game that we've played (Thursday night)," coach Scott Arniel said on the Jackets' website. "There wasn't a ton of offense, scoring chances up until the last two minutes were 7-7. That's Nashville, though; we were doing a lot of smart things, and at the end we didn't do a lot of smart things to finish it off.
"We have to look at the positives of what we do and build on that. If we get two points against Boston, that's five of six (points) this week. That's a heck of a hockey team that's on a heck of a roll and it could momentum back on our side."
Who's Hot: His 10-game winning streak is over, but Thomas hasn't slipped much, allowing the one late goal against the Panthers and a mere 18 in his last 11 games. … Blue Jackets winger Derek Dorsett scored his sixth goal of the season Thursday; he had previously never scored more than four in a full campaign. It's also good for third on the team.
Injury Report: Bruins forward Daniel Paille sustained a mild concussion Thursday on a hit by Krys Barch and did not travel with the team to Columbus. … Jackets forward Kristian Huselius (groin) will miss another 4-6 weeks, injuring himself in the second game after missing the first 25 contests with a torn pectoral muscle. Defenseman Radek Martinek (concussion) joined the Jackets for a morning skate Thursday, but has yet to pass a baseline test, required before he can return to game action.
Stat Pack: The Bruins' power play has been sputtering recently -- 3-for-27 in their last five games. Their penalty kill remains strong at 87 percent, fourth-best in the NHL. … Columbus' kill is 29th among 30 teams at 74 percent. Keeping the puck away is important as well, and the Bruins' overall faceoff percentage is a League-best 55.1 percent.
Puck Drop: "It can happen in the first or third period, but momentum in pro sports is how teams that are having success are the ones that handle those swings the best. We seem to be a team that gets back on our heels and don't go at it face-to-face, sometimes we sit back on it.
"I think our mentality switches from positive to negative very quickly. We have people that have earned opportunity to be out there, but they don't make experienced plays. It can be frustrating, but obviously it's hurt us a couple times this year." -- Arniel on the Jackets' site discussing his team's need to finish off opponents.