The Canucks (32-14-9) 87 points lead the Eastern Conference Philadelphia Flyers by a single point to stand alone on top of the NHL.
The Bruins (34-19-7) are 12 points behind Vancouver, but continue to hold on to the third place spot in the Eastern Conference.
“This is a team that is pretty explosive. If you fall asleep on them they make good stretch passes and they’re gone. They have a quick counter, a quick attack,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said after yesterday’s practice.
Both teams have been playing well of late with 6-4-0 records in their previous ten games. The Canucks are 7-2-1 in their last ten at home while the Bruins have the same record in their last ten road contests.
Tonight’s game marks the fourth in Boston’s current six-game road swing, they are 3-0 in the first three games with wins over the Islanders, Senators and Flames.
The Bruins enter tonight’s game with a 4-7-2 record against the Western Conference with a 2-1-0 mark against the Northwest Division.
The Canucks are 10-4-2 against the Eastern Conference and have a 4-2-1 record against the Northeast Division, their best record against an Eastern Conference division.
“But I like they’re team, obviously they’re in first for a reason and they’re pretty solid,” Julien said.Battle of the Backstops
|Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, right, blocks a shot by Boston Bruins' Michael Ryder, left, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010, in Boston. The Canucks won 3-2 in a shoot out. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) |
Although Vancouver claims two of the league’s top three scorers in the Sedin twins (Daniel and Henrik, who have a combined 73-83-158 scoring line through 62 games), tonight could prove to be a battle between the pipes as the Bruins and Canucks have the top two goaltending tandems in the league.
Vancouver’s goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider combine to give the Canucks the number one goaltending due in the NHL with a combined 2.26 GAA and .924 save percentage.
The Bruins Tim Thomas
and Tuukka Rask
combine to put Boston at a close second with a team GAA of 2.31 and save percentage of .930.
But it’s Thomas who holds the individual league lead in GAA (1.99), SV% (.939) and shutouts (T-7).
Vancouver’s Luongo is also among league leaders, ranking seventh in goals against average (2.27), second in wins (28) and fifth in save percentage (.924).
And with Rask’s improved play of late (he won consecutive games against the Islanders and Senators on Feb. 17-18) giving the 36-year-old Thomas the rest he needs, the Bruins are confident in their netminding due heading into the stretch run of the season.
“He’s actually playing really well for us this year, he’s been steady and good and he’s really helped in some important hockey games and [Tuesday vs. Calgary] was a good example,” Julien said after the team’s practice on Wednesday.
“We played against a pretty good team and I thought our team played well but he was fabulous when we needed him to be fabulous and that’s the way his season has gone for him so far.”Milan Lucic: Vancouver Homeboy
During the Bruins four-day stay in Vancouver, which comes to an end tonight as they travel to Edmonton after their tilt with the Cauncks, forward Milan Lucic
has had more to be excited about than just the Bruins big game tonight.
“I remember when I first started as a kid, I played here at the Coliseum and next door in the Aggerdome. You know being back here, practicing here in the NHL…and being able to see all my family and friends here and getting to spend three days off is definitely something special,” Lucic said.
“I couldn’t have it any better.”
The Vancouver, BC native began his hockey career with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. At just 16-years-old, Lucic made his major junior debut with his hometown hockey club in the 2004-05 season.
Lucic has been looking forward to this trip since the schedule came out.
“It was real exciting. Last time we came here we were in and out so I didn’t really get to see my friends and family too much,” he said.
“Obviously Boston is far away from Vancouver, people don’t realize how far away it is until they travel from Boston to Vancouver.
“You know I don’t get to see them that much during the season and I don’t really get to play in front of them. I think it was 200 games ago when we played here so it’s definitely exciting to come back and play here.”
In addition to tonight’s game, where Lucic is expecting over 20 family and friends to be in attendance, he was also honored by the Vancouver Giants last night.
Before the Giants took on the Chilliwack Bruins on Milan Lucic
Night, the Bruins forward was inducted into the Giants’ Ring of Honour and took part in the ceremonial puck drop.
“It was good, a lot of people came out so it was nice to see the reception. A little mix of emotions, it brought back a lot of great memories,” Lucic said. “And to see the fans cheering for you one lat time, it’s great coming back in the coliseum. It’s a special feeling.”
The first 500 fans in attendance of the game received a Milan Lucic
“The nose could use a little work,” Lucic said of his pint-size statue. “Definitely you can tell by the side profile there it doesn’t really have the bump that I’m kind of famous for. The old Serbian nose I get from my family.”
“But it’s pretty cool, I know a lot of guys from the organization have been asking for them so hopefully they can hook me up with a case or two.”
Despite all the pomp and circumstance surround Lucic’s homecoming, he’s still looking for the same thing as every game: a Bruins win.
“Hopefully we can get the…win [tonight].”B’s return to 2010 Olympic Site
|Bergeron & Thomas |
While Milan Lucic
may consider Vancouver his old stomping grounds, many of the Bruins haven’t returned to the city since they represented their native lands in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Six current Bruins, Tomas Kaberle, Dennis Seidenberg
, Tim Thomas
, Patrice Bergeron
, David Krejci
and Zdeno Chara
, took part in last winter’s Olympic games.
In addition, two then-Bruins, Marco Sturm and Miroslav Satan, also represented the Black & Gold in 2010.
Bergeron and the Canadian National Team took home the gold, defeating Thomas' Team USA 3-2, in an overtime thriller.
“I mean it was something special last year, those few weeks was a great experience. Coming back and playing here is obviously bringing back memories,” Bergeron said.
It was the first Olympic appearance for both Thomas and Bergeron.
Kaberle made his third Olympic appearance alongside new Bruins teammate, Krejci who appeared in his first Olympics in 2010.
The newest Bruin had a 1-2-3 scoring line in his five appearances last year, improving his career Olympic scoring to 3-5-8 in 17 games to go along with four penalty minutes.
Krejci recorded two goals and a single assist as the Czech Republic finished seventh in the international tournament.
Seidenberg also competed in his third Olympic games, adding a goal in four games for career Olympic totals of 2-1-3 in 16 games with 16 penalty minutes. Germany finished in 11th place.
B’s captain Zdeno Chara
had three assists and six penalty minutes in Slovakia’s seven games played.
The Slovakian Olympic Team lost to Finland 5-3 in the bronze medal game, sending Chara home with a fourth place finish in his second Olympic appearance. Chara has a career Olympic line of 3-4-7 in fourteen games.
“Being part of the Olympics is something very special,” said Chara.Player Profile: Mark Recchi
Lucic isn’t the only one who made a homecoming appearance this week. Bruins forward Mark Recchi is a native of Kamloops, British Columbia, which is about four hours from Vancouver.
"It’s always great," said Mark Recchi of playing near home. "I don’t get to do it very often.
"I think it’s only the second time in seven or eight years, so it’s exciting...[and] to be here for three or four days as well, it gives you that much more of a chance to visit my brothers and relatives and cousins and friends," he said.
Recchi is in his third season with Boston and has 11-31- 42 totals through 60 games, good for fourth on the Bruins in scoring. Playing on a wing with Bergeron and Brad Marchand
, Recchi has faced many opposing teams’ top-lines but still has a plus-16 rating.
"I think it’s his enthusiasm for the game," explained B's Head Coach Claude Julien. "He’s having a blast with these guys and he’s been, as I said before, a breath of fresh air for this dressing room.
"His experience, his knowledge and his wisdom and what he shares with our younger players has been something extremely valuable to us."
But even beyond his work ethic, it's the example that Recchi sets off the ice, which might be the most overlooked portion of the veteran winger's contributions to the Boston Bruins.
"He’s keeps himself in great shape, as you probably saw today. And he works hard in every practice," said Julien. "He doesn’t take short cuts and I think he’s setting a real good example for everybody.
"He’s been a real good addition for our hockey team since we got him from Tampa.”
Recchi, who made his NHL debut in 1988 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, is still happy playing hockey.
"I love the game," said Recchi, the NHL's active leader in games (1,631), assists (953) and points (1,527). "It’s obviously been a big part of my life and always will be.
"It’s given me everything that I’ve gotten and I’m very blessed and thankful that hockey has been part of my life."---Hannah Becker