PITTSBURGH — The Bruins cap off their home-and-home series against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Friday night at the CONSOL Energy Center, after earning a 3-0 shutout two nights ago in Boston.
Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. ET (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
The Bruins are currently on a 9-1-3 stretch and have taken points out of their last four games (3-0-1). They also take a 7-0-2 point streak on the road into Friday’s game.
A look at the standings shows Boston now second in the Atlantic Division with 38 points, just five points back of Montreal with three games in hand.
“It’s exciting to see us move up in the standings. It always is, right?” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “It always gives you some motivation when those things are happening…we’ve still got some games in hand, but at least we’re in a spot where it’s encouraging.”
The Black & Gold may have found success throughout the past month, but now is not the time to get complacent.
“We can’t. We have no option but to stay hungry, especially the way our confidence is shaping out— every point matters,” said Torey Krug. “And we’ve got a couple games in hand, but those don’t matter unless we take advantage of them. It’s an opportunity to obviously move up again.”
“Every game, it seems like, in the last three weeks, month, it’s been a big game and important,” said Brett Connolly. “So you look at the standings — it’s so tight. There are a lot of teams that are close to each other. So every game’s important; tonight’s another big game.”
The Penguins are still trying to get new head coach Mike Sullivan his first win behind their bench. They have lost three straight and are tied for 30th in the League with 67 goals — an unusual situation for Sidney Crosby and the Pens to find themselves in.
“Obviously with a new coach, there’s a lot things going through guys’ minds, you’re trying to do everything right and you can overthink things but I think you just have to come with the right work ethic and things will start to fall into place,” said Crosby.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that the last couple games and haven’t gotten a ton of bounces, so just find a way to keep going, keep generating those chances and trust the puck will go in.”
The shutout over Pittsburgh came as a result of Tuukka Rask’s strong play and the Bruins getting lucky on many occasions with the Pens ringing the iron. The B’s were outshot in the second period 18-4, but were able to take a 2-0 lead into the third period thanks to secondary scoring from Max Talbot and Jimmy Hayes.
“We obviously have that team fresh in our mind,” said Hayes. “We’ll have to come out with a better effort and make sure we play the full 60 and manage the puck well tonight to be successful. This team’s going to come out flying tonight trying to get back even with us.”
“We’re not a finished product and our game can always improve,” said Krug. “We won last game 3-0 but there’s a lot of things we can correct in our game to obviously limit their chances and get more chances on our end, so it’s just always about getting better every single day.”
Connolly Battling Scoring Drought
Brett Connolly is snake-bitten. The forward has one goal in his past 20 games and has gone eight straight without finding the back of the net.
He’s getting chances, though, and playing on a line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, he’ll continue to generate opportunities.
“You watch your chances and you kind of see what could be,” said Connolly. “Just got to get that one, and then hopefully it will snowball from there. But I’m happy with the chances I’ve been getting, and it seems like I’ve been getting a lot, so just got to stick with it and just try and bear down as much as you can when you do get a chance.”
“Usually, when you get one, you build confidence and stop thinking about it, and we’ll see what happens when I do get one. But the team’s winning right now, too, so that obviously makes it a little easier.”
Projected Lineup vs. Penguins 12/18
Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—Brett Connolly
Matt Beleskey—David Krejci—Loui Eriksson
Frank Vatrano—Ryan Spooner—Jimmy Hayes
Alex Khokhlachev—Max Talbot—Landon Ferraro
Zdeno Chara—Adam McQuaid
Dennis Seidenberg—Colin Miller
Torey Krug—Kevan Miller
Starting Goalie: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Jonas Gustavsson
Projected Scratches: Tyler Randell, Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman