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Need to Know: Bruins vs. Stars

Boston clamping down defensively over last two games

by Chris Weyant @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

BostonBruins.com - Tuukka Rask stopped 24 of 25 shots. Zdeno Chara notched his 600th NHL point with an assist on Patrice Bergeron's opening tally in the first period. And late in the third period, Noel Acciari notched his first career NHL goal on a slick pass from Riley Nash to seal the deal.

It was a strong night for the Bruins, who took down Nashville, 4-1, Tuesday night at TD Garden. And they'll be looking to carry over that momentum Thursday against Dallas at TD Garden.

The Bruins will be facing the Stars for the second and final time this season. Boston won the first meeting in Dallas by a score of 6-3 back on February 26.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Here is what you need to know:

 

Building Blocks

The Bruins (40-30-6, 86 points) knew they were in hot water as the buzzer sounded last Thursday at TD Garden. The defeat was their fourth consecutive, casting doubts on their playoff aspirations.

Since then, the B's have put forward stellar efforts in their victories over the Islanders and Predators.

A lot of the Bruins success can be attributed to their lockdown effort in the defensive end, as they have allowed just one goal in each of the two games.

"I think we hunkered down better defensively," said interim head coach Bruce Cassidy. "You saw that with our shot block totals, our penalty kill, just our all around defensive play."

Video: Riley Nash recaps his recent hot streak

Cassidy specifically noted the importance of his team's ability to block shots - 24 of them Tuesday night, to be exact.

"Every team gets a lift out of that because it's a price you're paying," Cassidy noted. "Those pucks, trust me, they hurt. Even though they have equipment on, it's a part of the game that's a sacrifice. I think it frustrates the other team knowing that you're hard to play against."

Coming off the bruising game on Tuesday - literally - Cassidy opted for an optional practice with some video work for the team beforehand.

"I think we got back to playing the system the right way and not cheating on the offense or having some miscommunication defensively," said Patrice Bergeron following the team video session. "Instead of that, we're talking a little bit more, we're in sync a little bit better, and that definitely makes a big difference to get out of our zone and not spend as much time in there."

With only a three-point lead on Tampa Bay for the second Eastern Conference wild card spot and a conglomerate of teams following close behind, Bergeron knows the team will need to continue to bring their A-game every night.

"The last two games were back to the way we want to perform," added Bergeron. "Obviously, that's not good enough. We have to keep moving along and keep building on that."

Opposing View: Dallas Stars

The Stars (31-34-11, 77 points) have been eliminated from playoff contention out West. The Bruins, however, are still weary of a team that is looking to play spoiler down the stretch.

Dallas's offensive attack is led by their two superstars, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Seguin, in his third season with the team, has 70 points (25 goals and 45 assists), good for 11th place in the NHL points race.

Jamie Benn, in his seventh season in the NHL and with Dallas, has registered 67 points (25 goals and 42 assists), holding a tie of 16th place in the NHL. Benn is serving as the team's captain for his fourth season.

The Stars are also home to one of the game's most exciting up-and-coming blueliners. John Klingberg, a 24-year-old defenseman from Sweden, has had a fantastic year to date, logging 45 points (12 goals and 33 assists) in 74 games. His 23:24 of average time on ice leads the team by almost two minutes, and he holds a plus/minus rating of +1 playing against teams' top forward lines.

Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi serve as the goaltending duo for the Stars. Lehtonen has shouldered the bulk of the load, posting a 2.81 goals against average and a .905 save percentage in 55 games played. He holds a record of 20-23-7.

Dallas ranks 16th in the NHL in goals for (2.72 goals per game) and 28th in the NHL in goals allowed (3.16 goals per game).

Wait, There's More

  • Boston University defenseman Charlie McAvoy has agreed to an amateur tryout agreement with the Bruins. McAvoy will report to Providence for Thursday's morning practice and will be eligible for the P-Bruins this weekend.
  • Thursday will mark the 135th all-time meeting between the Bruins and the Stars. The Bruins hold a 78-30-23-3 record against Dallas.
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