BRUINS (38-21-9) at BLUE JACKETS (32-27-9)
TV: NESN (HD), FS-O (HD)
Last 10: Boston 6-2-2; Columbus 3-4-3
Season series: This is the only meeting this season between these cross conference clubs. The Jackets have taken the last two games from the Bruins and have not lost to Boston at home since Nov. 14, 2003.
Big story: It's too early to call any game involving a division-leading team a must win, but the B's have been teetering from the top spot of the Northeast with losses in four straight. While Boston was able to come away with points by way of two overtime defeats over its current losing streak, the rival Canadiens have taken advantage with wins in six of their last seven games to pull within two points of the division lead. The Jackets will likely be playing spoiler at this point as they have four teams and eight points separating them from a very tight race for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Bruins: After giving up four straight goals to the Canadiens in a 4-1 loss last Tuesday, the B's came out very strong in their next game with a 2-0 lead at home against Buffalo on Thursday only to fall 4-3 in overtime. Boston again showed its ability to bounce back in its next game with a 2-0 advantage at the New York Islanders, but then surrendered four unanswered goals and lost 4-2.
The absence of defensemen Steve Kampfer and Andrew Ference have been apparent over the weeks they have been gone, but both were skating at Ristuccia Memorial Arena during the B's off-day practice on Sunday and their return in the near future will help beef up a blue line that could be hurting even more as head coach Claude Julien revealed that captain Zdeno Chara is battling flu-like symptoms.
Blue Jackets: Columbus finally ended its season-high seven-game losing streak with a 3-2 win at Carolina this past Saturday. But with such a hotly-contested Western Conference this season, a cold spell like that has put the Jackets in a very tough position to compete the rest of the way. The players were still happy to finally get a win under their belt and are determined to skate hard until the final game.
"It's great. You really forget how it feels to win after seven losses in a row," said goalie Steve Mason, who made 29 saves against the Hurricanes.
Who's hot: David Krejci continued his recent torrid scoring pace for the B's with a pair of assists against the Islanders on Friday. He is now in the midst of a five-game point streak and has compiled 2 goals and 13 assists while earning points in 10 of his last 11 games. … Derek MacKenzie scored twice for Columbus on Saturday and now has 4 goals and 1 assist while earning points in four of his last five games.
Injury report: Besides the reported flu-like symptoms experienced by Chara and the possible returns of defensemen Kampfer (upper body) and Ference (lower body), there isn't anything new on the Bruins' injury front. … Blue Jackets forward Andrew Murray is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Anton Stralman is sidelined with a knee injury. Forward Kristian Huselius (lower body) is on injured reserve.
Stat pack: While the Blue Jackets are just 20th in the NHL in penalty killing, they managed to kill off all nine penalties incurred against the Hurricanes in their last game.
Puck drop: Julien hasn't been too impressed with what he's seen in his team recently. He knows that there is very little room for slacking entering the stretch run and hopes to see everyone turn it around quickly.
"You know, our game has just been OK," Julien told reporters following Sunday's practice. "And OK isn't good for us. For anybody, it's not good enough. In order to win games at this stage, you got to be really good. We need to get back to our winning ways."