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Red-hot Bruins head to Pittsburgh

by Eric Goodman /
BRUINS (16-7-1) at PENGUINS (16-7-4)


Last 10: Boston 9-0-1 ; Pittsburgh 6-3-1.

Season series: This is the first of four meetings between these teams. While the Penguins have taken the last two games from the Bruins, Boston will look to make it three straight wins at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center.

Big Story: With just one shootout loss in its last 14 games, Boston remains as the hottest team in the NHL. The Penguins have also been playing great hockey recently with just one loss in their last five games. Both clubs sit atop their respective divisions entering Monday's contest.

Team Scope:

Bruins: The B's finished the month of November without a regulation loss, marking the first time they accomplished that feat since January of the 1968-69 season. While Boston has been nearly perfect recently, its 4-1 win over the Northeast Division's second-place Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday gave the Bruins only a three-point lead over their Original Six division rival.

Backup goalie Tuukka Rask made 22 saves to lead the Bruins to their fourth straight win over the Leafs this season and earned his first win since Boston's only loss in November during Black Friday's Thanksgiving Showdown against the Red Wings.

"It's always tough (to sit), no matter if you win or lose," Rask told reporters following the game. "You're eager to keep the winning streak going, at least give the team a chance to win."

Penguins: Pittsburgh will look to extend its current win streak to three games Monday as it plays its first game of the season against the defending Stanley Cup champs. But the Pens should be confident with wins in five of seven games since captain Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup on Nov. 21 from post-concussion symptoms that had sidelined him since mid-season of 2010-11.

Crosby chipped in with an assist Saturday and teammates Arron Asham, Pascal Dupuis and Craig Adams tallied goals to lead the Penguins to a 3-2 victory at the Carolina Hurricanes. Backup goalie Brent Johnson made 30 saves for Pittsburgh, including coming up big with a number of key saves in the closing minute of regulation as Hurricanes' coach Kirk Muller pulled his goalie with his team on a two-man advantage power-play which gave Carolina a 6-on-3 advantage.

"You don't see 6-on-3s that often," Johnson commented after the game. "Just an excellent effort from our guys."

Who's Hot: Bruins goalie Tim Thomas is in the midst of a nine-game winning streak with a 1.77 goals-against average and three shutouts over that span....For the Pens, Crosby has 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) in seven games since returning to action.

Injury Report: The B's have benefitted from a very healthy squad this season and should be at 100 percent for Monday's game. ... For Pittsburgh, Jordan Staal left Saturday's game vs. Carolina with three minutes remaining due to a cut under his eye after getting hit the face with a puck off a Tomas Kaberle pass. Forward Kris Letang (nose) and defenseman Zbynek Michalek (head) are still listed as day-to-day. Also for Pittsburgh, Dustin Jeffrey (knee) and Ben Lovejoy (wrist) remain out.
Stat Pack: Crosby has found great success in his career against Boston, amassing 28 points (6 goals, 22 assists) with a plus-9 rating and six power-play points in just 18 games vs. the B's.

Puck Drop: Despite owning the season's best November record, Bruins head coach Claude Julien cannot look past his team facing the League's best player in Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

"With Sidney being back in their lineup, a lot of attention has been put towards him," Julien told following Sunday's practice. "We know the challenge it represents, but it's a good thing for us, because where we're at with our team, it really gives us the best possible challenge we can have right now. In a way, I'm really looking forward to it."

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