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Visiting Penguins try to deny Bruins eight straight

by Brian Hunter

PENGUINS (37-21-8) at BRUINS (38-19-7)


Last 10:
Pittsburgh 2-4-4; Boston 7-3-0

Season series: Fourth and final meeting of the regular season. The road team has won each of the first three matchups. Dennis Seidenberg and Gregory Campbell each have 1 goal and 5 points to lead the Bruins. Kris Letang paces active Penguins with 1 goal and 3 points.

Big story: While Boston hasn't been as prolific at TD Garden this season as on the road, the Bruins returned home after a perfect 6-0 road trip and kept things rolling Thursday with a win over the Lightning to take over second place in the Eastern Conference. They'll try to extend their current run to eight in a row against a Penguins squad trying to solidify its playoff positioning.

Team Scope:

Penguins: For the most part, Pittsburgh could be pleased with the way it played Friday night in New Jersey. On the road, against a team desperate for points, the Penguins forced the Devils into overtime and hadn't taken a penalty in the game -- that is, until Zbynek Michalek was called for hooking at 2:46 of the extra period. They almost killed off the penalty and got the game to a shootout, but Ilya Kovalchuk snuck one past Brent Johnson with 24.9 seconds remaining, handing the Penguins a 2-1 defeat.

"We thought we deserved better," said forward Mike Rupp, a former Devil. "The bottom line is things haven't gone our way so we are going to keep building off it and keep going, and eventually we'll be able to get out of the little funk we are in and start winning these games."

Bruins: Defense and goaltending continue to lead the way for Boston, which has allowed a total of seven goals in its last six games. The Bruins haven't been blowing anybody out, but timely scoring has also been a key component of their streak. In a tie game midway through the third period against the Lightning, it was Milan Lucic providing the offensive heroics as he netted his team-leading 28th of the season with 3:42 remaining. Tim Thomas shut the door, making 27 saves in a 2-1 victory.

"I was just trying to look for the loose puck because there was enough guys in front of the net," said Lucic, who had the puck deflect to him off an official's skate. "I knew there was no real reason for me to get in there but just kind of wait around, see if something popped out and it did."

Who's hot: Tyler Kennedy scored the Penguins' lone goal Friday, giving him three in four games. … Lucic has 7 goals and 6 assists over his last 11 games for the Bruins. Nathan Horton has 3 goals and 1 assist during a four-game points streak. Thomas has allowed only one goal in each of his last three starts, all wins, while Tuukka Rask is coming off a shutout and has won four straight starts.

Injury report: Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz (lower body) has been skating with the team and could be activated off injured reserve Saturday. Remaining on the list are defenseman Brooks Orpik (hand) and forwards Evgeni Malkin (knee), Sidney Crosby (concussion), Mike Comrie (hip), Arron Asham (concussion), Eric Tangradi (concussion) and Nick Johnson (upper body). … Boston defenseman Andrew Ference is expected to miss two weeks with a knee injury, while forward Marc Savard has been shut down for the season due to a concussion.

Stat pack:
The Penguins are searching for their first regulation win in over a month, dating back to Feb. 4 against the Sabres. … Mark Recchi will reach another games-played milestone as he tied Scott Stevens on Thursday for sixth on the all-time list with 1,635 for his career. Bruins coach Claude Julien coached in his 310th game, tying him with Lynn Patrick for sixth in the franchise's history.

Puck drop: Letang doesn't get into many fights, but next time he'd be advised to keep his jersey tied down. Letang scrapped with Travis Zajac of New Jersey at the 6:14 mark Friday and got more than just the requisite five-minute major -- he received a game misconduct as per NHL rules because his jersey wasn't tied down and came off during the fight.

"Losing a defenseman early is never easy but I thought the guys stepped up and really played well," said Johnson, who got the start in place of Marc-Andre Fleury and made 28 saves.

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