PENGUINS (12-5-0) at BRUINS (7-7-2)
Pittsburgh 6-4-0; Boston 4-4-2
First of four meetings this season. They split last season's series, with the Bruins picking up one additional point by virtue of a 2-1 shootout loss at TD Garden in October. They came back to sweep a home-and-home from the Penguins on Dec. 30 and Jan. 1.
If not for a Scott Walker overtime goal that lifted Carolina in Game 7 of an Eastern Conference semifinal, Boston might have completed a comeback from a 3-1 deficit and met Pittsburgh to determine which team would go on to the Stanley Cup Final. This is the premiere matchup of the evening and it's being treated as such, with national coverage on Versus in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.
This marks the end of a four-game road trip for Pittsburgh that started out in California. Coach Dan Bylsma came away with a split against teams he played for during his NHL career, as the Penguins edged the Ducks and lost to the Kings. The low point of the trip came Saturday night when they were blanked 5-0 by the Sharks -- it's been over 12 years since Pittsburgh won a game in San Jose.
"We just weren't ready to play the type of game that they came ready to play," Bylsma said.
The offense finally showed up against Buffalo on Saturday. After nearly being shut out in three straight games and scoring just four goals over its last five (1-3-1), Boston got early power-play goals from Mark Recchi and Zdeno Chara
and came away with a 4-2 victory.
"A lot of guys were due," said forward Marco Sturm, who had gone 12 games without a goal before he scored late in the second period. "A lot of relief. As a forward you never want to go through that. Hopefully I can relax a little now."
Neither offense is sizzling right now, but backup goalie Tuukka Rask
has won consecutive starts for the Bruins, stopping 47 of 49 shots. Tim Thomas
, who figures to be in goal Tuesday, is 0-3-1 in his last four starts, but has given up only six goals during that span.
Already without forwards Evgeni Malkin
and Maxime Talbot and defenseman Sergei Gonchar, the Penguins were missing forward Tyler Kennedy
on Saturday due to an undisclosed injury and lost defenseman Kris Letang
during the game to an upper-body injury.
Forwards Marc Savard
and Milan Lucic
are the most significant injuries the Bruins have right now. Forward David Krejci
missed Saturday's game recovering from the swine flu.
Chara's goal against the Sabres was his first of the season, but while he's not dominating with his shot he's still averaging a team-leading 24:24 of ice time per game. He'll try to extend Sidney Crosby
's streak without a point to five games and figures to see plenty of the Penguins' captain, whose 21:23 of average ice time ranks third on his team.
Malkin will miss his sixth straight game, but he skated at HP Pavilion on Saturday and said his legs "feel great." Now it's just a matter of getting rid of the soreness in his shoulder.
"It's very tough for me," Malkin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "but it's the game of hockey. I played three years with no injuries. That's good. But just a couple games more and I hope to come back."