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Surging Bruins aim to clinch Atlantic vs. Capitals

by Mike G. Morreale /

BRUINS (50-17-6) at CAPITALS (34-27-12)


Last 10: Boston 9-0-1; Washington 5-3-2

Season series: The Boston Bruins split the first two games with the Washington Capitals at TD Garden, losing 4-2 on March 1 and winning 3-0 five days later.

Big story: The Bruins became the first team from the Eastern Conference to win 50 games while rebounding from their first loss in 13 games in a 3-0 win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. Tuukka Rask made 28 saves to earn his League-leading seventh shutout as the Bruins and Blackhawks played for the first time since Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins have outscored the opposition 51-19 over the past 14 games.

"I think the biggest thing is, you never want to play on your heels," Bruins coach Claude Julien told the team website. "A lot of teams, and this team here in the past many years ago, was a team that kind of was always afraid to lose and would sit back and would let teams come at them in the third period.

"We like to play on our toes versus on our heels and I think just going after teams and the fact that we seem to have lots of energy and seem to be fresh in the third period. It just seems to be working out well for us."

Team Scope:

Bruins: Center Patrice Bergeron, who was hampered by a punctured lung, cracked rib and separated shoulder in his team's six-game series loss to the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final last spring, scored two goals to lead the Bruins to victory on Thursday.

"The puck's going in, I guess," said Bergeron, who has 25 goals. "There's not much to say about it. It's just, you get those chances sometimes during the year and it doesn't go in. And now it is. Obviously, it's great anytime I can chip in offensively and keep my two-way game. I'm happy with it."

Boston has at least one point in 14 straight games (13-0-1) and is 16-1-3 in its past 20 games. The Bruins had won 12 in a row before a shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

Capitals: Captain Alex Ovechkin scored two power-play goals on Tuesday in a shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings to tie the Capitals' single-season record of 22 goals on the man advantage set in 2000-01 by Peter Bondra. Ovechkin has seven goals in 13 games in March, all on the power play. Center Nicklas Backstrom, who sustained an upper-body injury against the Kings in the second period, told The Washington Post he would "absolutely" play against the Bruins. Backstrom was injured after taking a hit from Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.

"I saw [Doughty] was there and I was trying to jump around him on the outside, but hit the edge of the boards [and went up]," Backstrom told the paper. "Bad luck, but what's important is I'm feeling better now and looking forward to [Saturday]."

Coach Adam Oates said center Mikhail Grabovski could return from a sprained left ankle that has sidelined him for 21 of the past 22 games. Grabovski has been skating as an extra forward at practice the past three days.

Who's hot: Bergeron has a six-game point streak and career-high five-game goal streak (six goals) for the Bruins. … Capitals right wing Joel Ward has four goals and five points in the past six games.

Injury report: Boston is without defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (knee) and Adam McQuaid (leg). … Washington defenseman Jack Hillen (upper body), who collided with Ovechkin in overtime on Tuesday, and Backstrom (upper body), are both probable. Forward Brooks Laich (groin surgery) is out.

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