BRUINS (25-13-7) at HURRICANES (22-17-6)
TV: NESN (HD), FS-CR (HD)
Last 10: Boston 5-2-3; Carolina 6-2-2
Season series: Third of four meetings this season, and the first at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. The teams split their games at TD Garden in Boston.
This is also the conclusion of a home-and-home in which the Bruins drew first blood in dominant fashion, receiving a hat trick from Zdeno Chara and 31 saves from Tim Thomas in a 7-0 win Monday afternoon.
Big story: The 2010-11 season is into its second half and Thomas is showing no signs of slowing down. Any notion that his Vezina-caliber first half might have been a fluke seems to have dissipated as Thomas picked up his NHL-leading seventh shutout Monday while lowering his goals-against average to 1.84 and increasing his save percentage to .944, also tops among all goalies.
Bruins: All in all, Boston defensemen scored more goals than the forwards in the Martin Luther King Day matinee. It didn't take long to see this would be the Bruins' day as Mark Stuart returned to the lineup after missing 18 games with a broken finger and promptly opened the scoring 7:56 into the first period. Chara then took over, increasing the lead to 3-0 after 20 minutes and completing the afternoon's scoring with his third goal with 5:56 remaining.
"It's always nice to say I've done it -- I've had a hat trick," Chara, in his 13th season, said, smiling widely. "I did it."
"He got two early and it was so nice he got the third, but nobody wanted to say anything," Thomas said. "It was like having a shutout."
Hurricanes: What kind of response will Carolina have on Tuesday after a rare stinker? The Hurricanes have been making a push to enter the Eastern Conference's top eight, but they had a poor start Monday and never got going. Cam Ward got the quick hook after Chara's first goal and the day didn't go much better for backup Justin Peters, who stopped 28 shots but was victimized five times.
"They got on a roll, felt good about themselves and away they went," coach Paul Maurice said of the Bruins. "It's important for our team to answer back and show some character."
Who's hot: Michael Ryder, Patrice Bergeron and Gregory Campbell also scored for the Bruins. Bergeron has 5 goals in his last four games, while Ryder has goals in three straight. Campbell has 3 goals and 7 points in his last five games. Chara has 5 goals in as many games, doubling the total he had through the first 40 games. Thomas has shutouts in two of his last three starts.
Injury report: Boston defenseman Andrew Ference missed the front end of the home-and-home with an upper-body injury. ... Carolina activated forward Jiri Tlusty off injured reserve, but he was a healthy scratch.
Stat pack: Chara became the fourth Bruins defenseman to record a hat trick. Two of the others are in the Hall of Fame: Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque. The feat was also accomplished by Glen Wesley. ... Ward surpassed Arturs Irbe on the Hurricanes' all-time games-played list for goalies with his 310th appearance.
Puck drop: Boston coach Claude Julien must decide between sticking with Thomas for a second straight game or turning to Tuukka Rask, who has also been strong of late -- his .926 save percentage for the season is fourth in the League. Maurice is likely to come right back with Ward, who played less than 12 minutes Monday.