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'Canes ready to resume playoff push against Bruins

by Tal Pinchevsky
BRUINS (28-15-7) at HURRICANES (25-19-6)


Last 10: Boston 7-3-0, Carolina 6-4-0.

Season Series: This is the final meeting between these teams and the first since the Bruins swept a home-and-home series on Jan. 17th and 18th by a combined score of 10-2. All-Star goaltender Tim Thomas earned his League-leading seventh shutout in the first matchup, a 7-0 Bruins' win. The next night, Thomas made a season-high 43 saves in a 3-2 victory in Raleigh. The Hurricanes won their only other meeting this season, 3-0, on Nov. 26.

Big Story: The Canes are hoping to avoid any hangover in their first game since hosting the All-Star festivities. They were hot heading into the break, winning three of four games since the home-and-home sweep against Boston. After going 8-4-2 in January, the Canes are looking to ride their strong play and a little residual All-Star energy into the playoffs.

Their post-break playoff run begins against a Bruins team currently nursing a four-point lead over Montreal atop the Northeast Division. Despite sitting in fourth place in the Southeast Division, Carolina is one point behind Atlanta for the Eastern Conference's coveted eight-spot with two games in hand.

Team Scope:

Bruins: Boston went 2-2-0 between the home-and-home sweep and All-Star weekend, managing to hold onto their division lead despite a sudden inability to score. After losing 2-0 in Los Angeles on Jan 24, Boston headed into the break with a 2-1 win over Florida on Jan. 26.

Against the Panthers, the Bruins raced out to a 2-0 lead courtesy of goals by Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic, who potted his team-leading 20th tally of the season. Thomas held the fort, making 34 saves and allowing just the lone Florida goal to preserve the victory and a season-series sweep of the Panthers.

"It's always good to go into one of these breaks on a high note," Thomas said after the game. "You can really savor the feeling of winning."

Hurricanes: Before serving as a headliner at the All-Star festivities, Carolina captain Eric Staal headed into the break in style. In Carolina's final game before the beak, Staal scored twice in a 1:28 span to lead a 4-2 victory against the Islanders. In the win on Long Island, Staal also added an assist and was named the game's first star. Two days later, he opened up All-Star weekend by selecting teammate Cam Ward first in the League's inaugural fantasy draft.

"Huge game before the break," Staal said of the game. "One point behind Atlanta (and) we wanted to make sure we got the job done here."

Who's Hot: Lucic has scored four goals for Boston in his last five games, while teammate Patrice Bergeron has 6 points in his last six games and was just named the League's first star for January. … Staal is currently riding a three-game point streak in which he has 5 points. Canes winger Brandon Sutter has scored 4 goals in his last four games.

Injury Report: Bruins forward Marc Savard is out indefinitely after suffering his second concussion in the past year. The previous concussion forced him to miss the first 23 games of this season. Center Trent Whitfield (achilles) is on IR and is not expected to return this season. Other than defenseman Patrick Dwyer, who is questionable with a lower-body injury, the Hurricanes are fielding a healthy lineup.

Stat Pack: With one more goal, Bruins forward Mark Recchi will pass Islanders great Mike Bossy for 19th place on the all-time goal-scoring list. Assuming he comes back next season, the veteran forward will have a legitimate shot at ranking among the game’s elite. With 74 more points, Recchi will have passed Paul Coffey, Ray Bourque, and Phil Esposito to rank 10th all-time.

Puck Drop: Hurricanes rookie Jeff Skinner already has the distinction of being the youngest All-Star in any of the four major North American sports. He currently has 40 points in 50 games, putting him on pace for 66 points this season. That would be the highest output for a rookie since Patrick Kane scored 72 points as a rookie in the 2007-08 season.

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