Raleigh, NC - The Bruins flew into Carolina on Sunday 3-0-1 on the season, "unbeaten" in hockey terms, having only dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the New York Rangers the last time the B's hit the road.
In that game, the Black & Gold battled back to get the point - but did so by making a strong push in the final two periods of regulation. And again, in Saturday's 4-2 win over the New York Islanders, the Bruins put together another surge, this time coming in the third period, that carried them to victory - and led them to have now taken seven of eight points to start the season.
But the B's are still looking to find a full 60-minute consistency throughout games, especially against a Hurricanes' team that had their numbers in 2011-12 - having swept the season series 4-0 for the first time in history between the two teams (including when the Canes' franchise was still in Boston's backyard of Hartford).
Hopefully some reverse superstition (knock on wood) can kick in for this stat: if Carolina wins on Monday, the five-game win streak would be their longest ever agains the Bruins, who were 11-2-0 against the Hurricanes heading into last season.
"Tomorrow's game is a pretty important one for us, the fact that they gave us our fair share of trouble last year," Coach Julien said following the B's Sunday practice at Ristuccia. "I think they've improved their roster, they've won their last couple of games, so we've got a pretty good challenge ahead of us."
Carolina is coming off winning a home-and-home series against Buffalo, that saw them earn a 6-3 win at home with help from an Eric Staal hat trick and then a 3-1 victory in Buffalo. The B's will have to settle the Canes' Jeff Skinner, who has scored four goals in their last three games and new addition Jordan Staal, who has notched four assists in that span. David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron will look to battle the brotherly duo anchoring Carolina's top two lines (Eric on the top line, Jordan centering the second), especially after Eric's hat trick and plus-4 rating heading into tonight. The Hurricanes' top-3 are all tied for the team lead with four points, and newcomer Alexander Semin scored his first goal as a Cane on Friday.
"They play a certain style that gives us a lot of trouble. They’re a four man attack team, even this year they always have a D up in the rush," said Coach Julien on the tough go-round the B's had with the Canes last season. "We haven’t played our best against them, but at the same time they’ve played some good games against us."
"This is going to be one of those more mental challenges than anything else and we’ve got to get over that hump and get that win as quick as we can, so we can get that monkey off our back."
Coach and the Bruins are ready to defend a Carolina team that builds off their ability to find the seams and have a strong net-front presence.
"They go to the net hard, they really open up a lot…Given those opportunities, they’re really a team that crashes the net a lot. If you let them get their shots through, they have a lot of guys in front either screening or picking up those rebounds. We’ve got to make sure in the D-zone we try to take those shots away from them."
"You don’t realize that we have to take a look at them here and understand that there’s a pretty good challenge ahead of us."
McQuaid Out Tonight
Adam McQuaid was absent from Sunday's practice due to personal reasons (not injury related) and will not be in Carolina with the team - though, he is expected back in the lineup against New Jersey on Tuesday at TD Garden. Defenseman Aaron Johnson will take his place - he was partnered with Andrew Ference in practice, with Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg-Dougie Hamilton being the top two pairings.
Twice as Nice: Anton Set to Make Season Debut
With the B's first back-to-back this season, beginning with Carolina, Coach Julien said that Anton Khudobin is expected to have his first start of the season on either Monday or Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils. **UPDATE: Following morning skate in Raleigh on Monday, Coach gave the nod to Khudobin to make his first start of the season tonight.**
"With these amount of games, you're going to have to utilize both goaltenders. We want him to get some action at some point," said Coach Julien after Sunday's practice. "It's important for Tuukka to get some rest, but for Anton to stay sharp as well."
Coach and his Black & Gold squad know that Anton is ready to go, whenever he's given the call.
"He's gone in there and worked hard and there's not difference in my mind, as far as his practice, compared to anyone else. He's been working hard and we've been pleased with that."
"He was strong last year when he played for us," added defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "Right now, it's just practice so it's always tough to say … but he's been very good for us and I'm sure he'll be ready to go."
"He's king of like me, same kind of style - but not quite as tall," Rask told media of his Khudobin "scouting report." "He's solid, he sees the puck well, he's got quick hands."
Whether Rask is in net and Khudobin is between the pipes, the B's understand how much tougher the season is going to get, as they begin their back-to-backs and a stretch this week of three games in four days (Bruins host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday at TD Garden).
"I think we feel pretty fresh, but we haven't played our best hockey all the time, it's going up and down during games," said Rask. "I think the biggest thing it just to get off to a good start. We're 0-1 on the road, so we're trying to get that good road game and then start off on the right foot"
"Everybody seems refreshed," said Seidenberg, who has been feeling much better since returning from a lower-body injury, and is finding his legs again. "We'll see - it will get tougher, and I think we're smart enough to take care of ourselves and take care of our bodies, and be ready for every game."