BRUINS (24-10-2) at PREDATORS (16-16-4)
TV: NESN, FS-TN
Last 10: Boston 7-3-0; Nashville 3-5-2
Season series: This is the first of two games between the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators, the first time the teams have played since Feb. 11, 2012, when Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron scored in the shootout in a 4-3 Bruins victory.
Big story: The Bruins are one of five teams in the Eastern Conference with a winning record against their Western Conference counterparts, but none of that success has come against the Central Division teams; the Bruins are 0-1-2 against Central teams, and they're the only team in the NHL winless against the seven teams in the division.
The Predators will look to continue that run of success for the division, while at the same time snapping a three-game winless skid.
Hamilton last played Dec. 8 due to a lower-body injury but was on the ice for the first time since then Saturday and Bruins coach Claude Julien said Hamilton could soon return to practice.
"[Hamilton was] skating for the first time this morning," Julien told CSNNE.com. "It was his first time on the ice [since the injury], so again, we'll see how he progresses. You can only go by that status."
Paille sustained a concussion in that same Dec. 8 game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but CSNNE.com reported he has been skating for a few days and got a positive diagnosis from the training staff. The next step will be re-joining the team at practice, something that could come later this week.
Predators: The Predators are 11-12-3 since starting goaltender Pekka Rinne last played, but Nashville general manager David Poile said he's sticking with the three goalies who have played in his absence, Carter Hutton, Marek Mazanec and Magnus Hellberg.
Rinne is expected to miss two more weeks recovering from surgery to help remove a bacterial infection in his hip.
"We're still going with [Mazanec] and Hutton," Poile told The Tennessean. "Like anything else, since we first knew about Pekka being out we've always been looking to improve our team, be it goaltending specifically or any other area. Two more weeks, not perfect, but I think it's much better for us to be on the same page with the doctor."
Poile said chasing after veterans like Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres and Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks isn't appealing.
"It's a game at a time," he said. "We have to improve in some different areas. If we do, that's good, and if we don't we'll have to adjust to that at a future time. But I don't think it does any good to show any more desperation than we're currently trying to display."
Injury report: Besides Hamilton and Paille, the Bruins are missing defensemen Adam McQuaid (lower body) and forwards Chris Kelly (ankle) and Loui Eriksson (concussion). ... With Rinne out, the only other injured Predator is defenseman Seth Jones, who is questionable with a facial laceration. Jones has said he expects to play.
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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