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Bruins end seven-game trip by visiting Hurricanes

by Brian Hunter
BRUINS (30-26-12) at HURRICANES (28-32-8)

Last 10: Boston 5-4-1; Carolina 7-2-1

Season series:
Third of four meetings this season. Each team has won a game on its home ice. Tim Thomas made 25 saves and seven different Bruins scored in a 7-2 win on Oct. 3. Jussi Jokinen registered a goal and two assists and Cam Ward set the franchise record for victories by a goalie in the Hurricanes' 5-1 win on Jan. 24.

Big story: In the immediate aftermath of losing Marc Savard to a Grade 2 concussion that could end his season, Boston has dropped three of four and watched its lead for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot shrink to one point over the New York Rangers. Both teams are action Tuesday, meaning if the Bruins lose they could be outside looking in by the end of the night.

Team Scope:

This is the finale of a seven-game road trip -- Boston could finish 3-3-1 with a win. One bad period doomed the Bruins on Monday night. They spotted the Devils a three-goal lead after 20 minutes and never caught up. Blake Wheeler scored early in the second and Patrice Bergeron late in the third, but the final result was still a 3-2 defeat.

"We dug ourselves a hole and, unfortunately, just couldn't get ourselves out of it," coach Claude Julien told "They're a pretty good team and they play well defensively. They have a great goaltender and when you're down 3-0 after a period, it's not easy to come back against a team like that."

If only Carolina had caught fire a bit sooner. The Hurricanes are 13-4-1 dating back to that last win over the Bruins and trail Tuesday's opponent by just eight points in the standings, but they would have to climb over five other teams besides Boston in order to claim eighth. There's no margin for error anymore, which made Saturday's 4-0 home loss to Phoenix particularly damaging.

"We are fighting for our lives and it's a tough pill to swallow, to lose a game like this," Jokinen said.

Who's hot:
Bergeron has three goals and three assists in Boston's last four games. Wheeler has three goals and two assists during a three-game points streak. David Krejci has a goal and three assists during a three-game points streak.

Injury report:
In addition to Savard, the Bruins were without defenseman Andrew Ference (groin) on Monday. … Ward (back) is out indefinitely for the Hurricanes, while Brandon Sutter is expected to return after missing Saturday's game with a leg injury.

Stat pack: Bergeron has a team-leading 44 points and Marco Sturm a team-leading 21 goals for Boston, whose 169 goals scored are the fewest in the League. … Paul Maurice is set to coach in his 800th game for the Carolina franchise. He's in his second stint with the team -- he also coached the Hartford Whalers and Hurricanes from 1995-2004.

Puck drop:
Tuukka Rask stopped all 16 shots he faced over the final two periods Monday in relief of Thomas. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Thomas has started 40 of the Bruins' 68 games this season but is just 15-17-8 with a 2.57 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. Rask is 15-9-4 with a 2.09 GAA and .928 save percentage.

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