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Bruins looking to claim sole Atlantic lead

Visiting Hurricanes fighting for points in wild-card race

by Matt Kalman / NHL.com Correspondent

HURRICANES (30-26-11) at BRUINS (38-23-7)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, FS-CR, NESN, NHL.TV

BOSTON - The Boston Bruins can take over sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division by earning a point against the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden on Thursday.

Boston is tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning with 83 points. The idle Lightning will have two games in hand by the end of the night.

The Bruins are 4-0-1 since the NHL Trade Deadline, when they acquired forward Lee Stempniak and defenseman John-Michael Liles in trades. The passing of the deadline provided the Bruins with two strong players and some relief.

"Obviously now we know what we have here," Bruins center David Krejci said. "We know nothing's going to change. So no one's going to help us, it's just in the room. It seems like the couple new guys, they're buying in and they're fitting in pretty nicely. So it's been a good ride the last couple games. Hopefully we can keep it going."

The Bruins allowed 93 shots combined in overtime road wins against the Florida Panthers (51 shots) and Lightning (42) on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Despite that, coach Claude Julien thinks Boston has tightened up its defensive play over the course of the road trip.

"I can tell you in Florida it was an issue because [the Panthers] had a lot of scoring chances," Julien said. "And the last game with all the shots [the Lightning] had, they had 11 scoring chances. So if teams want to shoot from all over the place, from the outside and everything else and let our goalies stay in the game and warm, that's fine with me. I base more on the scoring chances versus the number of shots."

The game marks the professional return of Carolina rookie defenseman Noah Hanifin, a Norwood, Mass., native and former Boston College standout. Hanifin will have two suites reserved for friends and family here.

The Hurricanes are four points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

Prior to the trade deadline, the Hurricanes traded captain Eric Staal, Liles and forward Kris Versteeg, leaving the team short of veterans. But they've overcome that deficiency and are 4-0-1 since the deadline.

"I think that's it, just working hard and obviously when you trade your captain, some good players, it can be tough in the locker room, Hanifin said. "I think we found a way to come out every night and just compete. And I think that's what we've got to do here tonight."

Here are the projected lineups:

HURRICANES

Joakim Nordstrom - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm

Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Phillip DiGiuseppe

Nathan Gerbe - Riley Nash - Chris Terry

Brendan Woods - Jay McClement - Brad Malone

Jaccob Slavin - Ron Hainsey

Noah Hanifin - Brett Pesce

Michal Jordan - Ryan Murphy

Cam Ward

Eddie Lack

Injured: Justin Faulk (lower body), Andrej Nestrasil (upper body), James Wisniewski (ACL)

Scratched: None

BRUINS

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Lee Stempniak

Loui Eriksson - David Krejci - David Pastrnak

Matt Beleskey - Ryan Spooner - Jimmy Hayes

Landon Ferraro - Noel Acciari - Brett Connolly

Zdeno Chara - John-Michael Liles

Joe Morrow - Dennis Seidenberg

Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask

Jonas Gustavsson

Injured: Chris Kelly (broken femur), Kevan Miller (upper body)

Scratched: Zach Trotman, Tyler Randell

Status report: Ward was the first goaltender off for the Hurricanes. It will be his second straight start. ... Rask was the first goaltender off for Boston. ... Miller took the morning skate but Julien ruled him out for Thursday. Miller, who will miss his third game, could return Saturday against the New York Islanders.

Who's hot: Skinner has three goals and one assist in the past two games. ... Bergeron has five goals and two assists during a five-game point streak.

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