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Bruins chase eighth straight as Hurricanes visit

by Brian Hunter

HURRICANES (29-28-9) at BRUINS (44-17-5)


Last 10: Carolina 3-7-0; Boston 8-1-1

Season series: This is the third and final game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins. The Bruins won twice in a span of six days early in the season. Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg each had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win at PNC Arena on Nov. 18, while David Krejci scored 1:28 into overtime for a 3-2 victory at TD Garden on Nov. 23.

Big story: The Bruins look to extend the NHL's longest active winning streak to eight games as they battle the Pittsburgh Penguins for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Their 26 home wins are tops in the League.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: A stretch of seven losses in eight games put Carolina's season on life support, but the Hurricanes have fought back with consecutive wins against the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres to remain in the hunt for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

One player who bears watching is forward Jeff Skinner, who's enjoying his best season since winning the Calder Trophy as an 18-year-old. Skinner has three goals and one assist during a four-game point streak and set a franchise record with 13 shots in a 4-2 win Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres. The Hurricanes as a team put 55 shots on net.

"The so-called kids are playing well," coach Kirk Muller said. "[Skinner] is scoring again … and [Elias Lindholm] has really elevated his game since the Olympic break. The chemistry is there. Eric [Staal] is feeding off of them, and it's really helping. Now we've got two lines that are really contributing."

Bruins: Since losing its first two games out of the Olympic break, Boston has been unbeatable. The Bruins are averaging four goals per game during their current streak and sporting a 1.57 goals-against average. They followed up a decisive road win against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday by edging a Phoenix Coyotes team battling for a wild-card spot in the Western Conference 2-1 on Thursday.

Boston begins the weekend with a one-point lead over Pittsburgh, though the Penguins have a game in hand. Defenseman Torey Krug is expected to return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch against the Coyotes.

"Torey, I've seen all year, and he's been good for us," coach Claude Julien said in the Boston Globe. "There are areas he's got to work on just like every other player. But there's other guys I need to have a look at in different places. So that decision was made for those kinds of reasons. Nothing major."

Who's hot: Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward has won consecutive starts, stopping 45 of 48 shots (.938 save percentage). Forward Alexander Semin has three goals and five assists during a six-game point streak. Forward Jordan Staal has two goals and five assists during a four-game point streak. Forward Jiri Tlusty has goals in back-to-back games. … Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has won five straight starts and stopped 56 of 58 shots in the past two (.966 save percentage). Defenseman Zdeno Chara has goals in back-to-back games.

Injury report: Muller is hopeful defenseman Justin Faulk (upper body) might return for Carolina, while defenseman John-Michael Liles (concussion) remains out. … Boston could get forward Daniel Paille (concussion) back, while defenseman Adam McQuaid (strained quad) remains out.

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