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Bruins, Canes look to keep up consistency

by Eric Goodman

HURRICANES (22-16-6) at BRUINS (24-13-7)

Last 10 -- Carolina 7-1-2; Boston 5-2-3

Season series -- This is the second of four meetings between these two Eastern Conference clubs. The Canes got goals from three different players and received 37 saves from Cam Ward to help them to a 3-0 victory at Boston in the first game of the season series back on Nov. 26.

Big Story -- Both the Hurricanes and Bruins have been racking up the points in recent games and Monday's Martin Luther King Day matinee will feature two of the NHL's most consistent clubs going head-to-head. Carolina has managed at least a point in nine of its last 10 games, while Boston has came away with at least one point in 10 of its last 12 games played.

Team Scope:
Hurricanes -- With such a tight race in the Eastern Conference this season, all most teams need is a solid 10-game stretch to stay relevant in the playoff race. And since the Hurricanes have grabbed 16 points out of a possible 20 over their last 10 games, it's safe to assume they will be competing with the rest of the top-tier teams for a playoff position this season.

Things continued to go well for Carolina on Saturday as it defeated the East's second-place Tampa Bay Lightning, 6-4, on a game-winner by captain Eric Staal. Staal's winning tally, coupled with his assist on an empty-netter by Jussi Jokinen gave him 474 points as a member of the Hurricanes and placed the captain at the top of the list for the team's all-time scorers, eclipsing former captain Rod Brind'Amour.

"What's exciting about Eric Staal is that he's not at his peak offensively or defensively," coach Paul Maurice said. "He's still learning the game and he's still getting better."

Bruins -- While the B's were defeated by the Penguins, 3-2, on Saturday, they can embrace the fact that they battled back from a 2-0 second-period deficit with two goals scored only 13 seconds apart and fought hard the entire game. And considering that Boston has totaled 17 points out of a possible 24 over its last 12 games and currently owns the third spot in the Eastern Conference with 55 points, there doesn't appear to be too much cause for concern in Beantown.

But even though backup goalie Tuukka Rask was up to the task with a 33-save performance on Saturday, he was definitely frustrated when addressing reporters after the game.

"It's one of those games you want to step up and win the game for your team because they played so well," Rask said. "It's a tough loss to swallow, at least for me. I think nobody's happy here right now."

Who's Hot -- Staal is in the midst of a five-game points streak for Carolina, tallying 4 goals and 5 assists during that span. ... The B's Patrice Bergeron had a five-game points streak snapped on Saturday. The center had 6 goals and 3 assists over that span.

Injury Report -- Hurricanes forward Jiri Tlusty is on injured reserve with an upper body injury. ... Bruins forwards Milan Lucic and Marc Savard are questionable with undisclosed injuries, as is defenseman Andrew Ference. B's defenseman Mark Stuart remains sidelined with a broken hand but is aiming to return at some point later this week.

Stat Pack -- Regular starting goalie Tim Thomas is expected to be back between the pipes for the Bruins on Monday. The American netminder leads the NHL in save percentage (.943) and goals-against average (1.88) and is tied with the Rangers Henrik Lundqvist for the lead in shutouts with six.

Puck Drop -- Even though the Bruins appear in good shape this season, coach Claude Julien continues to expect nothing but the best from his squad. The veteran coach wanted to see more of an all-out effort from his players in Saturday's loss to Pittsburgh.

"Guys, there's times when you lose a game," Julien told reporters in the post-game press conference. "I'm convinced if we played the first half of the game the way we played the last, we wouldn't be sitting here."

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