BRUINS (8-7-3) at PENGUINS (12-7-0)
Last 10 -- Boston 4-3-3; Pittsburgh 4-6-0
Season series -- Second meeting in five nights -- a banged-up Pittsburgh team dropped a 3-0 decision at TD Garden in Boston on Tuesday. On the heels of a 5-0 silencing by San Jose, it continued a scoring drought for the Penguins that grew to 160 minutes and 41 seconds before Ruslan Fedotenko stopped it against the Devils on Thursday.
Big story -- The Bruins aren't scoring much more than the Penguins lately, but while the Pens can pinpoint injuries to big guns like Evgeni Malkin for their offensive fall-off, the B's have struggled with the problem all year, even though their defense and goaltending have been top-notch. They've given up a total of six goals in regulation over the past six games and have only two wins to show for it. They've scored a total of eight in that stretch, seven of them coming in the wins over Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Both teams came in needing goals on Tuesday, and the situation hasn't changed much since.
Bruins -- The B's are beginning a stretch where they will play five of their next six games on the road, punctuated only by a home tilt against the Islanders on Monday in which Red Sox star David "Big Papi" Ortiz will drop the first puck.
Unlike those heavy-hitting Sox, though, this team lives on shut-down defense. Eight games have passed since the B's have allowed more than two goals in a game. They had a similar streak of five games last year, in which they went undefeated. This time, it's only a 3-3-2 mark.
Thursday night was typical of Boston's offensive struggles, losing 1-0 in a shootout despite outshooting the Panthers 19-1 in the second period alone. As far as goalie Tim Thomas is concerned, though, it was a tie.
"We deserved the two points," Thomas said. "They got some chances, but we got more. It is a little easier to take knowing that we won the last two."
Penguins -- After starting the season red-hot, the Penguins have had a lot of that early steam taken out of them. Six key players are down with injuries, but one of the most important players in the league may see action against the Bruins.
Malkin, sidelined by a strained right (non-shooting) shoulder, has been cleared for contact and may be ready to go.
"I hope maybe next game," Malkin said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It feels a lot better. I took wrist shots and it's not sore. I feel great."
How much have the Penguins missed Malkin? They haven't scored a power-play goal since he went down, going 0-for-25 over the last seven games. Malkin assisted on their last man-up tally way back on Oct. 28.
Who's hot -- It's certainly not the offensive players. Thomas is nursing a shutout streak of 172 minutes, 28 seconds. He's gone six starts without allowing more than two goals and has only two wins in that stretch, but the ultimate irony may be the last time he allowed three goals in a game, back on Oct. 24 in Ottawa, he won.
Injury report -- Milan Lucic (broken right index finger) has been skating the past few days and is ramping up his practice regimen for an anticipated return at Atlanta on Nov. 19.
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower body) will be out only two weeks, less than anticipated. Forward Max Talbot (shoulder surgery) has also been cleared for contact and is about 10 days from playing. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar had the cast removed from his left (shooting) wrist Wednesday and hopes to be cleared for full contact in about a week. Defenseman Kris Letang (right shoulder contusion) is not practicing and is expected to miss another 10 days. Tyler Kennedy has not practiced since being scratched late for the Nov. 5 game at Los Angeles.
Stat Pack -- The Bruins are 0-3-3 on Thursdays this season but are 5-1 on Saturdays. The Penguins' loss to the Devils Thursday is the first under coach Dan Bylsma in which the Penguins scored first. They had been 22-0-2 previously, including 8-0 this season.
Puck drop -- A still-hurting Penguins team would be markedly stronger with Malkin back in the lineup, but will be skating right into the teeth of one of the NHL's strongest defenses. Meanwhile, the Bruins will be looking for some of the bounces that have eluded them lately.