OILERS (9-3-2) at BRUINS (6-7-0)
TV: SNET-EDM, NESN (HD)
Edmonton 7-2-1; Boston 5-5-0
First and only meeting. Last year, the Bruins went into Edmonton and earned a 3-2 victory on Feb. 27.
Back in the days of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Cam Neely and Ray Bourque, this was a Stanley Cup Final matchup in 1988 and 1990 -- Edmonton prevailing both times for the final championships in their run as a dynasty. Boston returned to its glory days by winning the Cup last spring, but entering this matchup it's the visiting Oilers who are division leaders, sparked by a strong young nucleus and a white-hot veteran goaltender.
They've been called a lot of things in recent years, but "best defensive team" in hockey certainly hasn't been one of them.
The Oilers have allowed a League-low 21 goals in 14 games, and it's thanks largely to the outstanding play of goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin
. After stopping 28 of 29 shots in 3-1 win against the Canadiens on Tuesday, he is 7-0-2 with an 0.98 goals-against average and .964 save percentage.
"Great goaltending gave us a chance," said veteran forward Ryan Smyth
, who took over the team lead with his seventh goal on an empty-netter in the final minute. "(Khabibulin) has been playing superb all year and we played tight in the first period and in the second we loosened up a bit. In the third they had some chances but we found a way to hold on. It was a good road win."
It may be time to put away the aspirin because it appears the hangover has gone away.
After beating the Islanders 6-2 on Monday, the Bruins are in the midst of a three-game winning streak. Nathan Horton
and David Krejci
had 3 points apiece, and the Bruins look like they've found their hunger after a lackluster first month.
"It definitely makes you stronger," said Horton, when asked after the game about emerging from his doldrums. "The tough times are not easy, but tonight I felt better. It makes you feel better getting points and feeling good out there. I still want work on my game and keep getting better and do anything I can to help my team."
Edmonton's Ryan Smyth
has 5 goals and 3 assists in his last five games. … Boston's Tyler Seguin
is looking like a player set to break out in his second year. He has 5 goals and 1 assist in his last four games.
Defenseman Ryan Whitney
(knee) is out. … Boston's Daniel Paille
has a broken nose and facial lacerations after absorbing the full weight of a Steve Staios slap shot Monday. Rich Peverley
missed the Islanders game with an undisclosed ailment.
A big reason for the Oilers' terrific start defensively has been its dominance on the penalty kill. They rank fourth at 89.3 percent, giving up just 6 goals on 56 chances. … Boston's power play has been middling, but it's 3-for-10 over this three-game winning streak.
"Yeah, the sooner the better, right?" -- Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, after beating the Islanders to get his first win of the season