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Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Washington Capitals (23-45-9-2) at Boston Bruins (40-18-14-7).

TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The Boston Bruins have a chance to determine their own fate.

Boston tries to take a step closer to the Northeast Division title when it hosts the Washington Capitals in the easiest of its final three games of the regular season.

The Bruins have moved past Toronto and Ottawa into sole possession of the Northeast lead. With wins in all the remaining games - including a home-and-home series with Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey during the weekend - Boston would clinch the Northeast and be guaranteed home-ice in the opening round of the playoffs.

"We're trying to put ourselves in the best position for the playoffs," Boston coach Mike Sullivan said. "Getting points is critical. I think we've put ourselves in position to control our own destiny, and we're starting to do just that."

The Bruins were 9-3-1 in March, and have gained points in 25 of their last 29 games - including 15 of 16 on the road.

Sergei Samsonov scored the go-ahead goal in the second period Tuesday, and Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist to lead Boston to a 3-2 victory at Carolina.

"All year we've been playing a simple game," Thornton said. "When we get on the road, we don't play too fancy. We just chip the puck in, go and forecheck hard and keep the puck out of our end. There's really no secret, just the work ethic and smart plays."

Andrew Raycroft and Felix Potvin are both making strong cases to be Boston's starting goalie in the postseason.

Raycroft, a leading candidate for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, has won six of his last seven starts. Tuesday's victory improved Potvin to 4-1-1 in his last six decisions.

Washington is headed for its worst season since 1977-78, when it finished 17-49-14 for 48 points.

Matt Yeats stopped 27 shots for his first NHL victory and Trent Whitfield had two goals and an assist Tuesday to help the Capitals end a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over Pittsburgh.

Yeats was called up to Washington on March 19, and has played well in each of his four appearances.

"Maybe it will after the season is over, but it hasn't sunk in yet," Yeats said. "Last night, I watched the Detroit game and I was just thinking, 'I am playing in the same league.' It doesn't seem real."

Center Jeff Halpern, usually a defensive player, has taken on more of an offensive role since the Capitals traded away most of their high-priced players. Halpern has five goals and nine assists in his last 13 games.

STANDINGS: Capitals - 57 points, 5th place, 47 PB, Southeast Division. Bruins - 101 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Capitals - Halpern, 16 goals, 25 assists and 41 points; Darcy Verot, 135 PIM. Bruins - Glen Murray, 30 goals; Thornton, 49 assists and 72 points; Doug Doull, 127 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 30): Capitals - Power play: 19.3 percent (63 for 327), 6th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (312 for 383), 25th. Bruins - Power play: 16.0 percent (45 for 282), 17th. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (269 for 320), 16th.

GOALTENDERS: Capitals - Olaf Kolzig (19-34-8, 2 SO, 2.89 GAA); Yeats (1-2-0, 2.71). Bruins - Raycroft (28-17-8, 3, 2.00); Potvin (12-8-6, 4, 2.50).

SEASON SERIES: Bruins, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 29; Bruins, 3-1. At Washington, Hal Gill and Ted Donato scored first-period goals and Potvin made 28 saves for Boston.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Capitals - 10-25-3-1 on the road; Bruins - 18-11-8-2 at home.

Associated Press
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