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Coyotes, Bruins meet for first time since Prague

by Brian Hunter
BRUINS (23-9-1) at COYOTES (18-15-3)


Last 10:
Boston 8-2-0; Phoenix 4-6-0

Season Series:
This is the only meeting of the season between these inter-conference opponents. They last met to open the 2010-11 season in Prague as part of the Compuware NHL Premiere and split a two-game series. Nathan Horton scored 3 goals, while Tim Thomas recorded a 29-save shutout in the Boston win to begin a season in which he would capture the Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup.

Big Story:
After winning their first game last season in the Czech Republic and their final game in Vancouver to lift the Cup and end a 39-year drought, the Bruins have gotten right back to their winning ways this season after a rough opening month. The Coyotes will have to contend with a team entering on a six-game winning streak, which follows a previous 10-game run and 14-0-1 stretch.

Team Scope:

This is the start of a three-game road trip for Boston, which had four days off to enjoy the 8-0 shellacking it handed Florida at the TD Garden on Friday night. Brad Marchand had a career night, registering his first NHL hat trick and adding a pair of assists, helping him claim First Star honors from the League for the past week. Benoit Pouliot scored one for the highlight reels as part of a four-goal first-period burst, and Tuukka Rask recorded his second consecutive shutout with a 30-save performance.

"Everyone's playing the same level as last year," Marchand said. "We need to keep it going the whole year. That's the goal right now."

Coyotes: Fortunes change quickly in the Pacific Division, where Phoenix fell from a first-place tie after consecutive one-goal losses to St. Louis and Los Angeles. As a result, the Coyotes now sit ninth in the Western Conference, two points out of a playoff berth. They're also just two points from being back in a tie for first with San Jose and Dallas. Raffi Torres scored twice in Monday's 4-3 loss to the Kings, who also pulled right into the thick of the race and tied the 'Yotes for third in the division.

"I thought Raffi Torres was great and (Patrick) O'Sullivan. That line was really good for us," captain Shane Doan said. "We had guys step up, we just have to find ways to score on the power play. Special teams this year are huge for us and we got to be better at it."

Who's Hot:
Marchand has 6 goals in the Bruins' last five games and 15 for the season, just six fewer than he had in 77 games as a rookie. Pouliot has goals in three consecutive games, while Milan Lucic has scored in two straight. Patrice Bergeron has 2 goals and 7 assists in the last six games.

Injury Report: Boston rested banged-up forward Rich Peverley against Florida, but he is expected to return to the lineup Wednesday. … Phoenix forwards Martin Hanzal (upper body) and Boyd Gordon (lower body) are day-to-day. Goalie Mike Smith (groin) and defenseman Adrian Aucoin (lower body) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack: The Bruins have outscored their opponents 97-36 during their 20-2-1 stretch that began once the calendar page turned to November. … Cal O'Reilly posted a plus-2 rating Monday in his 100th NHL game and his 15th as a member of the Coyotes.

Puck Drop:
Smith's absence has made life more difficult for Phoenix -- while backup Jason LaBarbera has respectable numbers (3-5-0, 2.76 goals-against average, .907 save percentage), he's lost his last two starts and given up seven goals on just 47 shots. LaBarbera was pulled in the third period Monday and Curtis McElhinney, just recalled from the AHL, stopped all six shots he faced in 12 minutes of action.

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