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Penguins-Bruins Preview

NHL.com @NHL

The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the playoffs for the first time in six years, but they are still not satisfied.

The surging Penguins look to continue their pursuit of the Atlantic Division title when they visit the lowly Boston Bruins on Thursday.

Pittsburgh (44-23-10) clinched its first playoff berth since 2000-01 with a 4-3 win over Washington on Tuesday.

"It's pretty exciting to get in the playoffs. That's been our goal all season," said Ryan Whitney, who scored two goals. "Just to know we would be playing in April, that's one of our goals and we reached it tonight."

The Penguins had the second-worst record in the league last season, but are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference standings and battling New Jersey for the division crown.

Pittsburgh, which has not won a division title since 1997-98, was 10 points out of first place on March 3, but has since gone 10-2-1 to catch up to the Devils.

"It's a great accomplishment. We're proud of clinching the playoffs, but we want more," said Penguins coach Michel Therrien.

Pittsburgh has won eight of 10 and is outscoring opponents 11-4 during its current three-game win streak, including a 5-0 victory over Boston (35-35-6) on Sunday.

Sidney Crosby, the NHL leader with 113 points, had two goals and an assist in that win as the Penguins snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Bruins. Pittsburgh has lost five straight at TD Banknorth Garden, and is 5-17-1 in Boston since 1995-96.

The Penguins went 3-for-6 on the power play on Sunday, and were 3-for-5 against the Capitals.

Crosby, who had a power-play goal and an assist on Tuesday, has three goals and six assists in six career games against the Bruins.

Evgeni Malkin, leading all rookies with 82 points, has four goals against Boston this season but only one in his last nine games overall.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves on Tuesday, and stopped 29 shots against Boston on Sunday for his fifth shutout of the season. He is 6-1-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average since March 10, and is 2-1-2 with a 2.32 GAA in his career against the Bruins.

Boston bounced back from its loss to Pittsburgh with a 3-2 victory over playoff-bound Ottawa on Tuesday. The victory ended a five-game losing streak, during which the team was outscored 21-4.

The Bruins, likely to miss the playoffs for the second straight season, got a solid performance from backup goaltender Joey MacDonald as he made 32 saves to pick up his third win of the season.

"We had a tough one against Pittsburgh and I think the guys responded well," said MacDonald, who stopped all 13 shots he faced in the third period. "I thought our defense played pretty well and the guys let me see the puck."

Tim Thomas is expected to be back between the pipes for this game despite his recent struggles. Thomas has lost his last four starts, posting a 4.25 GAA, and is 3-8-1 with a 3.14 GAA since Feb. 24.

He allowed three goals on nine shots against the Penguins on Sunday before being pulled during the first intermission, suffering his first loss in three career games against them.

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