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Bruins' Structure, Balance Pose Challenge for Pens

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

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PITTSBURGH, PA - It's starting to sound like a broken record, but time after time, I head into the opposing team's locker room and walk out with quite a transcript of quotes about how the Bruins will be a good test.

It was no different today in Pittsburgh, after the Penguins finished up their morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center. The Bruins had not planned to hold a morning skate following last night's 3-2 shootout win in Ottawa.

While the B's come into tonight on a three-game winning streak, with a 17-3-3 record, Pittsburgh has won five straight and holds an 18-8-0 record this season. During the run, the Penguins have scored an NHL-best 26 goals (tied with Montreal), putting up a 5.2 goals-per-game average in March, while Boston - though having played the fewest games in the league with 23 - has allowed the least goals-against (50).

The B’s will have their hands full with Pittsburgh’s steady offense, that sees Sidney Crosby (3-11=14), Chris Kunitz (8-4=12) and Kris Letang (0-11=11) as the top three leading scorers in March among all NHL players, but a solid defense led by Zdeno Chara will help them shut the door.

"It seems like he’s always kind of in your face - or his stick’s there," Sidney Crosby told media following the Pens' skate. "He’s strong, so obviously probably not going to win that battle too often. But that being said, I think you always kind of look at those match-ups as challenges and try to find ways to create chances."

"That's always something to watch in a game against Boston, the match-ups they go for, they work hard to get Chara and the match-up they want," said Pittsburgh Head Coach Dan Bylsma. "I'm sure we'll see that tonight."

"When you see that guy back there [Chara], he's a top defenseman, he's a great defender, and he's a big body."

"It certainly will be a focus for our team in terms of where it''s played and how it's played, and getting the pucks in those positions so we can be effective. I think having an effect on their defense is key for our team. It's not just being physical."

But a physical is, in large part, something that the Pens will be expecting tonight - and that doesn't not necessarily refer to hits, but puck battles along the boards and a hard forecheck.

"They want to set their forecheck going with those big forwards," said Pens defenseman Kris Letang. "They have a lot of power forwards that can finish their checks. It's going to be key going back for pucks making sure we have an option out of the zone."

Another Pens D-man, Brooks Orpik, a former player at Boston College, has the chance to skate with many of the Bruins during the lockout, and said he got to know them pretty well.

"They've got some big guys, Looch is a pretty big guys, Horton's a big guy up front," said Orpik. "They just play their system, they've got a lot of good guys that can skate too like Bergeron, Marchand, Seguin. They have really good balance up and down the lineup. I think they're physical all over the ice."

"They're really tough to play against," said Letang, before adding later in his media scrum, "they have a lot of skill up front. They're really patient, they play with good structure, they wait for turnovers. You have to be aware at all times, if you have too many turnovers it's going to cost you."

"Really big on defense, they have a good goalie, a lot of skill up front. They're a really complete team, they're pretty balanced in every position. They're a Cup contender every year, it's going to be a good test for us tonight."

Tonight will mark the first of three meetings between the two teams, before they meet twice in six days, facing each other again on Sunday.

"The Boston Bruins are the only team in the East we have not seen yet and the team with the best winning percentage, best record in the East," said Bylsma. "That's what we're expecting, they're very structurally sound, really good team, balanced through their lineup, and playing very well."

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