Any good feelings that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins enjoyed during the Thanksgiving holiday figure to be long gone by the time they take the ice at TD Garden on Friday for the 2017 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown (1 p.m. ET; NBC, NHL.TV).
Each team is fourth in its division and has been up and down this season. Pittsburgh went 7-3-1 in its first 11 games but has struggled since then, going 4-6-2 in its past 12 games and losing 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks at home on Wednesday. Boston has won three in a row, including a 3-2 shootout victory at the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday, after losing four straight.
Here are 5 reasons to tune in:
Crosby in spotlight
Sidney Crosby's season has mirrored that of his team. The Pittsburgh center had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in his first 10 games; since then, he's been limited to seven points (one goal, six assists) in his past 13 games. Crosby hasn't been having much puck luck; his 8.0 shooting percentage this season (six goals on 75 shots) is less than half of his percentage last season (17.3), when he led the NHL with 44 goals. Great players usually play their best when they're needed most, and with the Penguins struggling to win, expect a big game from No. 87, who has 45 points (12 goals, 33 assists) in 33 regular-season games against Boston.
Video: BUF@PIT: Crosby nets rebound for power-play goal
Crosby's job is to generate goals. Patrice Bergeron's job is to keep him from doing just that. The Bruins center can score; he had a goal Wednesday and has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 15 games. But it's his skill without the puck that makes him special. Bergeron has won the Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward four times in the past six seasons, including 2016-17, and finished second the other two times. He's also among the NHL's best at face-offs, winning 56.8 percent of his draws this season.
Video: BOS@NJD: Bergeron fires wrister into wide-open net
Home sweet home
Whether at the Boston Garden or the building now known as TD Garden, Boston has never been a fun place for the Penguins to visit. The Bruins are 5-0-1 against the Penguins in Boston since the start of the 2013-14 season, and they're 67-22-2 with six ties at home against Pittsburgh since the Penguins entered the NHL in 1967.
The Bruins defeated the Devils on Wednesday when 19-year-old defenseman Charlie McAvoy scored in the 11th round of the shootout. McAvoy, Boston's first-round pick (No. 14) in the 2016 NHL Draft, is one of a handful of kids who've been making an impact with the Bruins after getting a chance to play because of injuries. Forward Jake DeBrusk, a first-round pick (No. 14) in the 2015 NHL Draft, had a goal against New Jersey, and forward Danton Heinen, a fourth-round pick (No. 116) in the 2014 NHL Draft, had an assist Wednesday to extend his point streak to four games. McAvoy has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 20 games and led Boston in ice time against New Jersey with 27:04.
Video: BOS@NJD: McAvoy dangles for SO winner in 11th round
Homecoming for Sullivan
Long before he was the coach of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, Mike Sullivan was a Massachusetts native coaching the Bruins, the team he grew up watching. The Bruins hired Sullivan, who had coached their American Hockey League affiliate in Providence, as coach in 2003 and finished first in the Northeast Division in 2003-04. But Boston lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and after the Bruins failed to make the playoffs in 2005-06, he was fired. Sullivan went more than nine seasons between NHL coaching jobs, but after being promoted to the top spot by the Penguins on Dec. 12, 2015, after Mike Johnson was fired, he's led the Penguins to consecutive championships. However, he has yet to coach them to victory in three tries in the building he used to call home.