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Playoff-bound Bruins face Devils in finale

by Brian Hunter

BRUINS (46-24-11) at DEVILS (37-39-5)


Last 10:
Boston 7-2-1; New Jersey 4-5-1

Season series: Fourth and final meeting of the season, with the Bruins looking to complete the sweep. Boston has outscored New Jersey 11-2 in winning each game by a three-goal margin. Tim Thomas has been at his stingy best, posting an 0.67 goals-against average and .978 save percentage, though there's a good chance Tuukka Rask will be in net Sunday.

Big story: The Devils finished 12 points ahead of the Bruins last season, but entering the final day of the 2010-11 campaign Boston has outdistanced New Jersey in the standings by a whopping 24 points. The B's are locked into third after the Flyers beat the Islanders on Saturday and will face the Canadiens in the first round for the third time in four years.

Team Scope:

Bruins: Thomas will be the odds-on favorite to capture his second Vezina Trophy in three seasons, and assuming he doesn't play Sunday he's guaranteed to hold the new NHL record with a .938 save percentage for the season, eclipsing the mark of .937 set in 1998-99 by Dominik Hasek of Buffalo. Thomas stopped 31 shots against Ottawa on Saturday afternoon and Nathan Horton's power-play goal early in the second period proved decisive in Boston's 3-1 victory.

"That's great. Awesome," Thomas said of the potential record. "To be completely honest, I had a hard time getting it completely out of my mind the last couple of days."

Devils: This marks the first time since 1996 that New Jersey won't be in the playoffs and Saturday afternoon's 5-2 loss to the rival New York Rangers also assured the Devils will finish with fewer points than games played for the first time since the 1990-91 season. Nick Palmieri deflected in an Ilya Kovalchuk shot and Kovalchuk added a goal late in the first to give the Devils a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes, but the desperate Rangers stormed back after that with four unanswered.

"We talked before the game, I think we owed our fans for that season," Kovalchuk said. "They were right behind us all season long. We went through a lot and that game was kind of for them. We tried to [win]. It's always a big rivalry so we were just thinking about ourselves and we really wanted to win this game."

Who's hot: Daniel Paille has just 6 goals and 13 points in 42 games this season for the Bruins, but he has 3 goals and 1 assist on his current four-game points streak. ...  Kovalchuk has consecutive multi-point games for the Devils, and his 60 points are one behind Patrik Elias for the team lead.

Injury report:
Boston long ago shut down Marc Savard for the season due to recurring concussion symptoms, but is otherwise healthy. ... New Jersey shut down forwards Zach Parise (knee) and Dainius Zubrus (stinger) and defensemen Colin White (leg) and Anton Volchenkov (leg/knee) for the season.

Stat pack:
In addition to leading the NHL in save percentage, Thomas is also first with an even 2.00 GAA, as well as second in shutouts with nine. ... Palmieri leads Devils rookies with 9 goals and is tied with another rookie, Mark Fayne, for the team lead with a plus-9 rating.

Puck drop: Boston only won two of six games against Montreal this season, but the most recent matchup was a resounding 7-0 win by the Bruins that should give them plenty of confidence heading into the first round. They lost in seven games to the Canadiens in 2008 and swept them in four straight the following year.

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