BRUINS (20-11-4) at THRASHERS (19-14-6)
TV: NESN (HD), SPSO (HD)
Boston 6-3-1; Atlanta 4-3-3
Third of four meetings this season. Each team has recorded a 4-1 win on home ice. Dustin Byfuglien scored a goal and assisted on three others for Atlanta on Nov. 28, while Shawn Thornton
punctuated a scrap with Eric Boulton off the opening faceoff on Dec. 23 with a pair of goals to spark Boston.
The balance of power has changed in the Northeast Division, where after chasing the Canadiens for most of the first three months of the season, the Bruins finally overtook them and moved into sole possession of first place with their thrilling win Tuesday over the Lightning and the Capitals' shutout of the Habs. Boston puts its three-game winning streak on the line in Atlanta.
In a little over a month, Mark Recchi will celebrate his 43rd birthday. But the Boston forward once again proved himself to be ageless when he scored a power-play goal with 19.7 seconds left in regulation for a 4-3 win in Tampa Bay. Recchi's goal from the slot was his seventh this season and the 570th of his career. Earlier in the game, rookie Steven Kampfer
notched his first NHL goal. The Bruins won despite letting three one-goal leads slip away.
"We found a way," said Tim Thomas
, who made 31 saves. "Whenever they scored to catch up, we never let them carry any momentum. The next shift we came out and battled hard. And we got big goals at big times."
It's going to be a busy stretch to close out 2010 for Atlanta, which will play a pair of games in just over 24 hours -- after hosting the Bruins, the Thrashers travel to face the Devils for a 5 p.m. start on New Year's Eve. By the time they hit the road they hope to have snapped a four-game losing streak which has seen them fall from the top of the Southeast Division to third place. Sidney Crosby was his at his unstoppable best on Tuesday, scoring twice and adding a pair of assists as the Penguins handed the Thrashers a 6-3 defeat.
"I don't need to say any secrets, he's the best and you have to play your best game against him and we took the day off," goaltender Ondrej Pavelec told NHL.com after making 30 saves. "We have to be ready next time. It's not a secret. He's the best."
Michael Ryder has 2 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak for the Bruins. Thomas has won his last three starts and continues to lead the League in goals-against average (1.73) and save percentage (.947). … Bryan Little has 1 goal and 6 assists during a five-game points streak for the Thrashers, while Byfuglien has goals in three of the last four games.
Boston defenseman Mark Stuart is on the mend from a broken right ring finger. … Kane (arm) and fellow forward Nik Antropov (hip) are day-to-day for Atlanta.
Stat pack: Marc Savard
recorded his 700th career point with an assist on Kampfer's goal. Kampfer joined Tyler Seguin
, Brad Marchand
and Jordan Caron
as Bruins to score their first NHL goal this season. … Byfuglien continues to lead the Thrashers -- and NHL defensemen -- in goals (14) and points (38), and is tied for first on the team in assists (24) with fellow defenseman Tobias Enstrom.
Carolina, which sits fourth in the Southeast and ninth in the Eastern Conference, has closed to within single digits of Atlanta but is now idle until New Year's Day, making the four points up for grabs over the next two evenings big ones for the Thrashers.