WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand has heard of Ottawa Senators rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond, and the Bruins' leading scorer with 22 goals is impressed.
"I heard he likes to eat McDonald's. That's about it," Marchand said Wednesday after practice at Ristuccia Arena. "He's in a pretty good spot, McDonald's for life, can't argue with that one."
Hammond, nicknamed "The Hamburglar," has been given free food for life at six McDonald's locations in the Ottawa Valley. But he didn't get that reward because he's expressed a love for the food. Recently, the 27-year-old with the fast-food nickname has been as dominant as any goaltender in the NHL and he's helped the Senators stay in the race for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
In his first 12 NHL starts, Hammond is 11-0-1 with a 1.35 goals-against average and .956 save percentage. He is the second goaltender in NHL history to yield two or fewer goals in each of his first 12 starts, which ties the record of Boston's Frank Brimsek set in 1938-39.
Eastern Conference: Wild Card
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
The Bruins hold a four-point lead on the Senators for that second wild card entering their game against Ottawa on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; RDS2, TSN5, NESN). For Boston to extend its lead, Marchand and his teammates are going to have to cool off the League's hottest hand.
"I saw a stat today, he's like 11-0-1 or something like that, and pretty good numbers," said Marchand, who's scoreless in his past five games. "So he's obviously playing well. I think that's also a good compliment to their team. Their team's playing very well in front of him right now, which definitely helps him. So tomorrow we're going to have to be even better because of that. He's obviously not giving up a lot of goals. So we're going to have to be very tight defensively. Hopefully if we can do that, we can pot a couple and hopefully it's enough to win."
In the Bruins' version of "Groundhog Day" they're heading into Ottawa with a four-point lead nine days after they visited the Senators with a five-point lead. The Bruins scored three goals in the second period and defeated Ottawa 3-1 on March 10 in the third game of their five-game winning streak. That night, the Senators started veteran goaltender Craig Anderson, who made 19 saves. Anderson is again out with a hand injury.
Since pushing the Senators seven points back, the Bruins have gone 2-1-1 and lost their past two games.
Despite their failed efforts to extract the Senators from hovering nearby in the standings, the Bruins aren't tearing their hair out. They understand it's the nature of parity in the League and how much every team that's outside of the playoffs in the conference wants to be playing in the postseason.
"That's the way it is. I mean, the teams are really playing desperate hockey, they're winning, and so we have to keep winning," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "We have to worry about ourselves and not so much about every other team. Maybe the teams that have some cushion, as far as points-wise, they're not playing as desperate. And you see that it's really getting jammed up, like from first to seventh, eighth spot, there's not as many points difference as there was a month and a half ago."
The Bruins were not only on a winning streak the previous time they visited Ottawa, they were scoring a lot. They had 15 goals in four games prior to the win against the Senators. But since that second period against Ottawa, the Bruins have scored five goals in 13 periods plus one overtime. Boston has scored two or fewer goals in four straight games.
The Bruins offense has ranked in the bottom third of the League in goals per game for most of the season. After a 2-1 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, the Bruins were 19th at 2.60.
Several Bruins in addition to Marchand are in extended scoring slumps. It's been 11 games since Reilly Smith's last goal. Offensive defenseman Torey Krug's drought is at 14 games. Center Carl Soderberg has gone 24 games without a goal.
Bruins coach Claude Julien was a model of positivity before leaving for Ottawa. He said his players are of the same mindset.
Goalie - OTT
GAA: 1.35 | SVP: .956
"I think we've gotten to Ottawa in the past and been able to score on their goaltenders," Julien said. "So this is a guy we haven't seen. We know he's a battler, we know he's played well, we know he's riding a hot streak right now. But at this time and point, I think it's up to us to figure it out and score some goals and win ourselves a big game [Thursday]."
The remaining schedule seems to favor Ottawa, starting with the game in hand the Senators have. Seven of Ottawa's final 12 games are at home. Boston plays four of its final 11 at home.
"It's definitely an exciting time right now. But it's also nerve-wracking," Marchand said. "This is not the most ideal position to be in. I'm sure we'd much rather be in a more secure playoff spot. But at the end of the day … it's in our hands right now. It's up to us to come out and play good hockey and win hockey games. If we can do that, then we'll be able to secure a playoff spot. It's in this room and it's up to us whether we're going to be there."