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Hurricanes go for season sweep of Bruins

by Matthew Mankiewich /

HURRICANES (18-25-9) at BRUINS (32-14-2)


Last 10: Carolina 4-4-2, Boston 6-3-1

Season Series: Given that they're at opposite ends of the Eastern Conference standings, it might be surprising to see that it's the Hurricanes who are on the verge of a season sweep, having won all three meetings so far -- and all in regulation. It's true the 'Canes picked up a couple of those wins during Boston's 3-7-0 October start, but save for a couple of Western teams with individual victories, no team has a better record, let alone a winning one, against the Bruins this season.

Big Story: Sweeping one of the NHL's elite teams is enough of a challenge for anyone, but for the last-place team in the Eastern Conference, it would be a major highlight in an otherwise disappointing season. While the Hurricanes occupy that bottom spot, they're still a not-insurmountable 11 points out of the eighth seed with 30 games to go -- though they started the second half with a 5-2 home loss to the equally desperate Islanders. The Bruins, while not quite as torrid as they were in December, have stayed neck-and-neck with the Rangers for top-seed honors.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: Despite three losses to the Islanders, the Hurricanes had a 5-4-3 record in January, their first winning month this season. But captain Eric Staal believes the team has turned a corner under coach Kirk Muller and can play much better still, maybe even making a run at that still-distant playoff spot.

"We're starting to feel comfortable with our game and the way we're asked to play," Staal told the Hurricanes' website. "Guys are knowing their roles a bit better, and we've been more defined as far as what's needed out of certain players. With the start that we had, the coaching change and the transition to a new system, there's a lot that goes along with it. Now, it's a little bit calmer as far as feeling more comfortable about where we're at and what's expected."

Bruins: Sometimes you don't deserve a win and get lucky anyway. For the first two periods at TD Garden on Tuesday, the Bruins certainly didn't, looking listless for most of the first 40 minutes and spotting Ottawa a 3-1 lead before Milan Lucic's goal late in the period made it a one-goal game.

They kicked into gear at the right time. Brad Marchand tied it early in the third and Dennis Seidenberg launched a shot from the red line that skipped past Craig Anderson for the lead.

"I don't know if it was a lucky bounce or the way it came off of my stick," Seidenberg said. "It just seemed to bounce off the ice and kind of was rising up and it was tough to read I guess for him and somehow it went in."

"We recognized that we weren't playing very well. We weren't happy with our D and if we planned on winning we had to be a lot better in the third period," coach Claude Julien said.

Who's Hot: Lucic has a pair of two-point games in his last three, while Seidenberg has back-to-back two-pointers. … 'Canes forward Jeff Skinner has a three-game points streak, and has gotten on the board in five of his last seven. But the biggest winner this week could be defenseman Tim Gleason, who signed a four-year, $16 million contract extension on Tuesday.

Injury Report: Hurricanes defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (facial injury) has been out since Jan. 12 but is expected back soon. … Boston's Nathan Horton (mild concussion) has missed two games with the All-Star break in between.

Stat Pack: The Bruins have scored a total of five goals in three games against the 'Canes, all with Cam Ward in nets. … Boston's plus-minus numbers continue to impress, with five Bruins in the top 10 and Tyler Seguin's plus-32 leading the NHL. Horton and David Krejci are even among regular players and everyone else is on the plus side of the ledger. … Boston's goal differential at plus-70 leaves the rest of the League in the dust -- Detroit is next at plus-45. Even more amazing, Boston is plus-38 in the third period alone.

Puck drop: "Our guys' focus, their intent, is there. We're just fighting it right now. Every game seems to be a battle right now to win." -- Julien in the Boston Herald on the Bruins' recent "lull."

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