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Need to Know: Bruins at Senators

Atlantic Division showdown is crucial to playoff picture

by Chris Weyant @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

BostonBruins.com - Drew Stafford, the newest member of the Boston Bruins, helped invigorate the team and third line en route to a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night at TD Garden.

The 31-year-old veteran slotted on the right wing on Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano's line, making his presence felt early and often. In 14:07 of ice time, Stafford launched seven shots on net, registered four hits, and hit Spooner with a beautiful cross-crease pass to set up the game-winning goal.

The trio will look to have a similar impact at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Monday night, where the B's take on the Senators.

Monday night marks the second of four matchups between the B's and the Sens this season. Ottawa won the first contest in Ottawa by a score of 3-1 back on November 24.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Here is what you need to know:

Battle for the Atlantic

The Bruins (34-25-6, 74 points) have three monster contests against Ottawa among their final 17 regular-season games, which will have massive implications for the B's playoff hopes.

The Senators hold a two-point advantage over the Bruins, having also played two fewer games. However, the B's know they can catch the Sens with positive results in the head-to-head matchups.

Despite the potential four-point swing between the two teams, interim head coach Bruce Cassidy is trying to manage his team's emotions going into Ottawa.

"It's a game, we need to play well, and we'll do our best to win," said Cassidy. "Then, it's on to Detroit … we can't get mesmerized by the standings and worry too much about it."

Cassidy recalled the Bruins last matchup against the Senators, a meeting during which they struggled to find much offensively.

"They make you earn your way through the neutral zone," said Cassidy. "They try to create turnovers there and make it difficult and test your patience, so we've got to be ready for that … That's one of the big issues we had last time. We didn't generate much, and I think the breakdown through those areas was why."

But Boston believes it is a much different team some three-plus months later.

"I think we're a team that's a little bit more confident right now," said Patrice Bergeron. "I think we're playing with more energy and definitely with more speed, also. Our defensemen are doing a good job of following the play and helping us out. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage."

Ottawa's ability to congest the neutral zone makes them a tough team to break out against, and was a focal point for the B's during Sunday morning's practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

"We've got a couple things in mind," said Cassidy. "We talked this morning, on the ice, about how we feel we can get through there. And if not, the decisions we need to make."

Cassidy and his players know that asserting themselves between the blue lines could be the key to staking their claim on Monday night's crucial two points.

"Don't get frustrated, don't fall into their trap. They're a good team," said Patrice Bergeron. "They rely on their transition from that in the neutral zone. I think the neutral zone [Monday] is going to be a key to the game."

Opposing View: Ottawa Senators

The Senators (35-22-6, 76 points) have put together a solid season, holding the two-spot in the Atlantic Division for a majority of the campaign.

Erik Karlsson, the Sens captain and Norris Trophy candidate, has spearheaded his brigade's run of quality play. Karlsson has 56 points (11 goals and 45 assists). His 45 helpers are good for third in the NHL and first among defenseman.

The contributions of Karlsson have taken a major load off of the forwards, who have been able to spread their scoring efforts. Seven Ottawa forwards have reached double-digit figures in goals this season.

Mark Stone (22 goals and 26 assists) and Kyle Turris (22 goals and 22 assists) share the team lead in goals. Stone, whose shooting percentage of 19.5% ranks eighth among all players with 75 or more shots this season, doesn't need many scoring chances to strike gold.

The NHL's feel-good story of the year, goaltender Craig Anderson, will be the likely backstop in net for the Sens. Anderson took a leave of absence from the team to be with his wife, Nicholle, who is battling a rare form of head and neck cancer.

Anderson returned to the team for their February 11 matchup against the Islanders, recording a shutout in his first game in over two months. The 35-year-old veteran has been effective in 27 games this season, boasting an 18-8-1 record with a goals against average of 2.25 and a save percentage of .930.

Ottawa ranks 20th in the NHL in goals for (2.57 goals per game) and 11th in the NHL in goals allowed (2.60 goals per game).

Wait, There's More

  • Bruce Cassidy said after Sunday's practice that Adam McQuaid should be able to play after receiving 25 stitches to close a neck laceration he suffered from a skate blade towards the end of Saturday's game against the Devils. Read more.
  • Monday will mark the 176th all-time meeting between the Bruins and the Senators. The Bruins hold a 95-59-11-10 record against Ottawa.
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