WASHINGTON - Is tonight the night?
The Bruins certainly hope so.
After 11 straight losses to the Washington Capitals, Boston is looking to snap the maddening streak when they visit Capital One Arena on Thursday evening. The Bruins have not defeated Washington since March of 2014 and have dropped both meetings so far this season.
But as the winners of five straight and 14 of their last 18 - yes, one of the losses came to the Capitals - the Bruins are hoping to finally break through in the teams' final matchup of the year.
"Obviously we're playing well, that helps," said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. "For whatever reason - there's a number of them - but the biggest one is we end up chasing the game against them a lot, so that's going to be our focus. Hopefully we get off to a better start.
The Bruins may be catching the Capitals at the right time, as they have lost three straight for the first time this season and have been shut out in back-to-back games, including a 1-0 shootout loss to the Rangers on Wednesday night.
"Both teams played last night, so there's no advantage other than them being at home," added Cassidy. "They've been able to make more plays than us at the appropriate times. That's the second part of the focus - get off to a good start and make the plays that you need to to put yourself in position to win."
Certified Bruins killer Braden Holtby, who has won nine straight against the B's, did not play against New York and is expected to get the start in goal tonight.
"I think we just have to keep playing the same hockey we've been playing," said Noel Acciari. "We need to have a good start and play our game - right now it's working for us and if we stick to that we should be OK."
Acciari Good to Go
After taking a hit to the head from Ottawa defenseman Fredrik Claesson on Wednesday night, Acciari said he was feeling no ill effects and would be ready to go against the Capitals. The winger, whose nose took the brunt of the blow, missed the final five minutes of the first period before returning for the second.
Acciari's linemate and former Providence College teammate Tim Schaller took exception to the hit and dropped the gloves with Claesson, earning 17 minutes in penalties. It was a gesture that Acciari greatly appreciated.
"Tim stepped up for me," said Acciari. "Just being a good teammate. It's great to see and I know that any guy will step up for any guy on our team. That's the type of team we are."
Schaller said he was trying to avoid the instigator penalty, which automatically triggers a 10-minute misconduct, but the officials weren't budging.
"I think anyone in the lineup would do the same thing I did," said Schaller. "I talked to the ref before I got in the box - I said I was polite about it and I made sure [Claesson] said yes. I was surprised when I got it, but it was worth it."
Pursuit of Happiness
Cassidy has been searching for a just a little bit more from Anders Bjork of late, particularly away from the puck, asking to see a bit more jam out of the rookie winger's game to complement his patented speed and skill.
During Wednesday night's win over the Senators, Cassidy got his wish. With the Bruins up, 3-1, late in the second, Bjork turned on the jets and delivered a dogged forecheck on Ottawa blue liner Dion Phaneuf.
Bjork tracked down the veteran defenseman just inside the Ottawa blue line and was hot on his tail as Phaneuf tried to escape the zone. Eventually, Bjork swatted the puck away, corralled it, and fed Riley Nash, who finished things off with a dangle past Craig Anderson for a 4-1 Boston advantage.
It was the exact kind of puck pursuit Cassidy has been looking for.
"We want him to be harder on pucks and puck pursuit because it is an avenue that he can certainly make our team look faster by tracking down pucks," said Cassidy. "That is why we have asked him - even when he has it sometimes when he runs out of space - to chip it and go get it because he puts a lot of stress on the D. He is starting to understand that part of it."
Video: OTT@BOS: Nash tucks in backhander for slick goal
With his win against the Senators, Tuukka Rask has now grabbed points in his last 10 games (9-0-1). The netminder, who was named the NHL's First Star last week, has accomplished that feat four times in his career, with the last coming in 2015.
Over the 10-game stretch, Rask has a 1.41 goals against average and .946 save percentage.
Tonight's Projected Lineup
Per Cassidy, the only change expected tonight is Anton Khudobin getting the nod between the pipes.
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen - Riley Nash - David Backes
Jake DeBrusk - Ryan Spooner - Anders Bjork
Tim Schaller - Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Kevan Miller