BRUINS (21-13-7) at SENATORS (22-16-4)
Boston 5-4-1; Ottawa 6-4-0
Fourth of six meetings this season between Northeast Division rivals. Ottawa has yet to defeat Boston this season, with the Bruins winning a pair of shootouts by 4-3 scores and taking the most recent matchup 2-0 in Ottawa on Dec. 21 behind goals from Patrice Bergeron
and Marco Sturm and a 29-save effort by Tim Thomas
for the shutout.
Bergeron won't be in the lineup Tuesday after a shot by teammate Dennis Wideman in Monday's 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers went off his right hand. That doesn't bode well for the Bruins, given they are tied for the third-lowest scoring average in the League (2.49 goals per game) and Bergeron is their leading scorer with 31 points.
"It's obviously a big blow to our team," defenseman Matt Hunwick said. "He was our leader when (Marc Savard
) was out. He's a guy who comes to the rink every day and competes. We talked about playing smart and being tougher. Those are all intangibles that he has."
Boston was back indoors on Monday and this time there was no storybook ending. However, one similarity between the Bruins' loss to the Rangers and their 2-1 win over the Flyers in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Fenway Park was their sluggish start. They trailed 2-0 on Monday before Hunwick and Blake Wheeler scored 86 seconds apart late in the third. However, Christopher Higgins netted the winner for the Rangers with 1:29 remaining.
"These are opportunities that we just can't waste," Wheeler said. "We can't wait and say with 20-something games left, 'OK, let's step on the gas now. That will be good enough.' We've got to start now.
"Talk is pretty cheap. It's all about going out and doing it. Once we see that on the ice night in and night out, then we can start talking and maybe get our swagger back."
With top forwards Daniel Alfredsson
and Jason Spezza
out, Ottawa needs veteran scorers like Alex Kovalev to step it up. Largely a disappointment in his first season with the Senators, the man with over 400 goals on his career resume put four on the board Sunday in a 7-4 win over the Flyers. Ottawa has now won three of four on a five-game homestand that concludes Tuesday, and could claim second in the Northeast with a win.
"Hopefully, that's the way it's going to go for me the rest of the season," Kovalev said. "I've been saying before that I'm trying to find the right spot and be in the right spot at the right time. I think today that was exactly what happened."
Sturm had a four-game goal streak snapped Monday. That included the overtime winner in the Winter Classic. Hunwick and Wheeler each had two-point games for the Bruins against the Rangers.
In addition to Kovalev, who added an assist for a five-point game against the Flyers, Chris Kelly
had his first career two-goal game plus an assist for the Senators while Anton Volchenkov and Ryan Shannon registered three assists each.
Besides Bergeron, Boston will be without forward Milan Lucic
(high ankle sprain) and defenseman Mark Stuart (broken sternum), both of whom remain on injured reserve. … For Ottawa, Alfredsson is out with a separated shoulder and Spezza has a torn right MCL.
Kovalev has scored goals in just two of his last 28 games, but both efforts have been hat tricks. He scored three times in a Dec. 12 win over Carolina, including the 400th goal of his career.
Boston coach Claude Julien had strong words for his team following Monday's game.
"There were times in the past that they had their dressing room under control," Julien said. "Right now, you have to coach, you have to be a cheerleader, you've got to wake them up. You've got to do too many things that a coach shouldn't have to do at this level.
"These are professionals and they've got to take ownership of their dressing room at some point."