BRUINS (28-21-9) AT BLACKHAWKS (35-19-5)
TV: NBC, SN
CHICAGO -- Less than two years after playing in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks again have their Cup hopes in mind for the finale of a two-game regular-season series.
When they play at United Center on Sunday (3:30 pm ET; NBC), however, each team hopes to shake off some recent struggles and spark a hot streak for the stretch run of the regular season. The Bruins are winless in their past six games (0-4-2) and clinging to the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Blackhawks are trying to hang onto third in the Central Division and are 2-1-3 in the first five of a season high eight-game homestand.
Boston is also without two-way center David Krejci, who was injured Friday at the St. Louis Blues.
“It’s a really high stress point,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said after practice Saturday in Chicago. “It’s easy to get down and frustrated. It’s hard to keep things loose and keep things light and keep things confident in the room and in the game. But as individuals, we have to have each others’ backs, keep staying the course and moving things in the right direction. If we can keep competing hard and stick to the gameplan, ultimately we’ll start getting the results that we want.”
The Blackhawks are 15-11-4 in their past 30 games, which dates back to late December. They haven’t won more than two consecutive games in that span and had a seven-game point streak come to a screeching halt Friday against the Colorado Avalanche.
A tight 1-1 game was decided in the third period, when the Blackhawks were called for dual interference penalties on the same play. That led to two power-play goals for Colorado and a postgame scolding from Chicago by captain Jonathan Toews, who boiled over regarding the Blackhawks’ lingering inconsistencies.
His teammates had similar sentiments after practice a day later. They said they’re looking to correct the issues quickly, starting with this game against the Bruins.
“I think we’ve got a lot of emotion coming into [the] game,” Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell said. “We’ve got the history we’ve had and the way we’ve been playing, we need to be a lot better to be successful. We need to bring our work ethic and to ramp it up quite a bit to be where we need to be. They’ve been scratching and clawing too, so it should be an exciting playoff atmosphere.”
Chicago needs Bickell to feed off that atmosphere. The 6-foot-4, 223-pound power forward has only one goal and one assist in his past 13 games and doesn’t have a point in six straight. After impressing in back-to-back postseasons, including the 2013 championship, Bickell needs to find his playoff gear quickly.
“If I play five minutes, if I play 15 minutes, I need to bring it every shift,” he said. “I need to bring energy. I need to bring excitement to the team, especially the home crowd, to lay a hit or anything like that. I’ve just got to capitalize on the minutes I get and hopefully help out.”
Chicago goalie Corey Crawford will make his sixth straight start, while Boston is expected to start Tuukka Rask. The Bruins have played Rask in consecutive games. He was supposed to get a break in St. Louis on Friday, after making 15 straight starts, but played 28:45 and allowed two goals on nine shots while relieving rookie Malcolm Subban.
Here are the projected lineups:
Milan Lucic – Ryan Spooner – David Pastrnak
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly – Carl Soderberg – Loui Eriksson
Jordan Caron – Gregory Campbell – Brian Ferlin
Zdeno Chara – Dougie Hamilton
Matt Bartkowski – Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Scratched: Daniel Paille
Injured: David Krejci (undisclosed), Kevin Miller (right shoulder)
Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg – Brad Richards – Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell – Andrew Shaw – Daniel Carcillo
Patrick Sharp – Marcus Kruger – Ryan Hartman
Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Duncan Keith – Michal Rozsival
Kyle Cumiskey – Brent Seabrook
Scratched: Ben Smith, David Rundblad, Tim Erixon
Injured: Trevor van Riemsdyk (patella surgery)
Status report: Quenneville said to expect one or more lineup changes. Carcillo will rejoin the lineup after missing three games, but who he replaces won’t be known until gametime. The most likely candidates are Hartman and Smith. … Spooner might slot in between Lucic and Pastrnak.
Who’s hot: Versteeg has three goals in five games since returning from a broken bone in his left hand. … Marchand and Smith have three game point streaks, Marchand with two goals and an assists, and Smith with a goal and two assists.