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Bruins stand in way as Penguins go for six straight

by Brian Hunter

PENGUINS (20-9-1) at BRUINS (18-8-2)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 8-1-1; Boston 6-3-1

Season series: This is the third and final time the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins are scheduled to meet in the regular season. In their most recent game, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby scored with 0.3 seconds left to force overtime, but Boston's Torey Krug scored 34 seconds into the extra period for a 4-3 victory on Nov. 25.

Big story: A one-goal game should surprise nobody. The past five regular-season games between the Penguins and Bruins have been decided by a single goal, as were the final two games of Boston's sweep in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Prior to facing the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said he thought the visitors from the West Coast might be the NHL's best. But watch out for Pittsburgh, which went out and dismantled San Jose 5-1 for its fifth win in a row.

Even with forward Evgeni Malkin out of the lineup due to a lower-body injury, the Penguins' offense erupted in a four-goal second period. Chris Kunitz scored twice in a 2:03 span. The Sharks did register 45 shots on goal, but Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 44 in perhaps his most dominant start of the season.

"No one is going to replace Geno," said forward Jayson Megna, who scored his third goal in 10 games. "We have guys that fill in, step up. If we stick to our system we don't complain."

Bruins: After a 2-1 road loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday that saw Montreal pass Boston into first place in the Atlantic Division, the far greater concern was for the well-being of defenseman Johnny Boychuk after he took a hit along the boards from Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty and had to leave the game on a stretcher.

Boychuk spent some time at the hospital but was later able to fly home with his teammates. He was set to have an MRI exam on his lower back Friday, and coach Claude Julien said he expected to know more Saturday. For now, the Bruins will have to test their depth along the blue line.

"Hopefully Johnny isn't out too long or it's too bad, but it is definitely something that, just being here a short few months, being able to see all the depth … it's definitely a big strength," forward Jarome Iginla said.

Who's hot: Kunitz has five goals and four assists during a six-game point streak. Crosby's three assists Thursday gave him four multipoint games in his past five (two goals, eight assists). James Neal's two assists gave him seven multipoint games in his past nine (eight goals, eight assists). … Bruins forward Milan Lucic has two goals and one assist in his past two games.

Injury report: Malkin did not travel with Pittsburgh and won't play Saturday. Forward Pascal Dupuis (undisclosed) left the game Thursday and did not return. He did make the trip to Boston, and the team said he might play. Goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), defensemen Rob Scuderi (ankle) and Paul Martin (leg) and forwards Chuck Kobasew (lower body), Beau Bennett (wrist), Tanner Glass (hand) and Andrew Ebbett (ankle) are on injured reserve. … Boston figures to be without Boychuk, and defenseman Adam McQuaid (hip/groin) is day-to-day after aggravating an injury that caused him to miss eight games in November.

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