CANUCKS (25-13-3) at BRUINS (26-10-1)
TV: NHLN-US (HD), SNET-P (HD), NESN (HD)
Vancouver 7-2-1; Boston 9-1-0
This is the only meeting of the regular season between the Canucks and Bruins, though it's entirely possible they could be facing off again in early June in a rematch of last spring's Stanley Cup Final. Saturday afternoon's matchup is their first since Game 7, which featured two goals apiece from Patrice Bergeron
and Brad Marchand
and 37 saves by Tim Thomas
in a 4-0 victory as Boston won its first championship in 39 years.
This game threatened to lose some of its luster after both teams scuffled in October, but the Canucks and Bruins are playing at the absolute top of their games heading into Saturday. Vancouver has reclaimed the Northwest Division lead, while Boston is just blowing away its competition and has lost four games (three in regulation) since the start of November. Both are just one point behind the New York Rangers in the race for the Presidents' Trophy, which went to the Canucks last season.
It took the better part of the season's first half for Vancouver to pass Minnesota in the division standings, and the Canucks didn't intend to let the Wild gain any ground or allow a two-game mini-slump to continue when the teams met Wednesday at Rogers Arena. First-period goals by Daniel Sedin
and Alexandre Burrows
staked Roberto Luongo
to a 2-0 lead and he made it hold up, recording a 28-save shutout in his 700th NHL game. Manny Malhotra
's empty-netter sealed a 3-0 win that sends the Canucks into Saturday's showdown feeling good again.
"Tonight's game was more important than Saturday's game … division rival and they're right behind us in the standings," Luongo said. "That was my focus."
Luongo will take a seat for this game -- Massachusetts native Cory Schneider
will get the start instead.
David Clarkson's power-play goal to open the scoring Wednesday in New Jersey must have made Boston mad, because over the ensuing 112 minutes the Bruins have played, they've outscored their opposition 15-0. After getting the final six to cruise past the Devils, they returned to TD Garden and blew out the Flames 9-0 on Thursday. Tyler Seguin
's goal 1:14 in was all the offense Tuukka Rask
would need, as he posted his third shutout in four starts, but he got plenty more -- including a pair of goals from Bergeron and Nathan Horton
"To be honest with you, no one talked about Saturday in the dressing room. We were all worried about tonight," Bergeron said. "That's the approach we've had all year and now our next job is Saturday -- so now we really have to worry about them. It's going to be a tough game, so tomorrow we need a good practice and be ready for that."
The Sedins are once again vying for the lead in the scoring race, as Henrik has 48 points to tie Claude Giroux of the Flyers for first, while Daniel is tied for third, two points back. Luongo is 10-2-1 with a .939 save percentage since returning from injury in late November. … David Krejci
has four goals and seven assists during a seven-game points streak for the Bruins. In the last two games, Bergeron has four goals and Horton has goals.
Vancouver has forward David Booth
(knee) and defenseman Aaron Rome
(hand) on injured reserve. … Marchand is day-to-day for Boston with flu-like symptoms.
The Canucks were outscored 17-3 during the Stanley Cup Final in the three games played at TD Garden. … Bergeron was plus-4 in the Game 7 victory and is plus-25 this season, tied for third in the League with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara
, trailing two of his other teammates, Seguin (plus-31) and Marchand (plus-26).
The start will be the first in Boston for Schneider, a native of Marblehead, Mass., who played at Boston College. Needless to say, he's excited.
“It’s great, I’m not sure if I was expecting it, but it’s going to be a lot of fun to play in my hometown, but more importantly, to play a big game for our team against probably the best team in the league right now,” he told a horde of media after the Canucks held practice at Harvard University on Friday.
“It’ll be a great challenge for myself personally and I’m just hoping I can step up and deliver a big game.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said the decision to play Schneider had nothing to do with Luongo's struggles in Boston during the Final last spring.
“We’ve got two goaltenders here that we’ve got confidence in and every game. Vigneault said. We’ve played 41 so far, you could make a case to play one or the other and in this instant, I decided that Cory is going to be the goaltender."