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B's Ready for Big D

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
BOSTON -- The last time the Stars were in the TD Garden Dallas left with a 5-1 loss and the B's had a victory that most considered a benchmark game in the club's stellar 2008-09 season.

Dallas Stars' Krys Barch and Boston Bruins' Shawn Thornton, right, exchange punches during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008 in Boston. Boston won 5-1. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
That game, on Nov. 1, 2008, featured 146 penalty minutes (77 to Boston alone), seven misconducts and three pairs of fighting majors.

Granted, the teams that will face off tonight are slightly different than the clubs that brawled through that penalty laden affair, but there remains plenty on the line as the Pacific Division leading Stars (30-16-5, 65 points) visit the Northeast leading Bruins (30-16-5, 65 points).

"I’ve seen them play a couple times," said Milan Lucic (20-13-33 line) of the Brad Richards (20-28-58) led Stars.

"Obviously, they've got a great lineup. They've got a lot of firepower up front and they've also got a lot of great D.

"So they’re a good team, they can make you pay in a lot of ways," he said.

They certainly can. Beyond Richards, the Stars boast a lineup that has held the Pacific Division lead since Nov. 27th and has the fifth best record (by points percentage) since Nov. 16th with a 22-9-5 record.

Boston, who defeated the Stars 3-0 in Dallas' American Airlines Center, holds the sixth best record over that stretch (20-10-6), but the Bruins know that to continue their own roll will take a strong, 60-minute effort against the Western Conference powerhouse.

"For us, we've got to take that as a challenge," said Lucic. "I don’t think our record’s been that great against Western Conference teams this year so hopefully we can turn that around tomorrow."

Lucic is right, Boston is only 2-4-2 agains the West and 1-3-1 against the Pacific during the 2010-11 season.

"Well they’re a great team," said Nathan Horton on Wednesday. "They have lots of great offense, and they have a good goaltender.

"I think we definitely have to play hard against them...and it’s going to be a tough game."

That goalie is Kari Lehtonen who is 22-12-5 with a 2.61 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. Old friend, former B's backstop Andrew Raycroft, has been the Big D's backup and boasts a decent 8-4-0 record with a 2.42 GAA and a .920 SV%.

Boston won their first post-All-star contest with a 3-2 showing against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. But Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien looked at the schedule and said that the B's can't have any letdowns.

With Dallas, San Jose, Montreal and Detroit gracing the Garden over the next two weeks, the B's will have their hands full.

"They’re going to be tough games," said Julien. "Dallas is having a pretty good year and San Jose is a good team right now that’s fighting to hold on to a playoff spot.  Montreal, as you know is always a challenge in of itself.

"So you know we’ve got a tough home stand here and again probably not a bad thing for our hockey club, we need to get consistency, we need to make sure we work hard every night and what better challenge than that."

From the sounds of it, the B's will have no problem getting up for any of the club's upcoming contests. Forward Blake Wheeler talked about the "second half" of the season and said that it was an exciting time.

"Yeah for sure," said Wheeler. "I think everyone’s really excited to get back after the All-Star break and get back after it.

"We've got 30 games left here down the stretch and you know it’s a lot of games in sort of a short period of time.

"But that’s the way the schedule is for everyone and you just have to keep your focus and keep doing the things we’ve been doing lately."
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