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Pittsburgh vs. Boston Preview

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1-1-5) vs. Boston Bruins (2-1-1-3)

Where: TD Banknorth Garden
When: Monday, October 20, 7 p.m.
Radio: WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV: FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428 and DirecTV 659.
*Check HD schedule and television


Responsible Defense: The Bruins roll two dangerous lines and Pittsburgh will have to stick with its defensive scheme or else Boston will burn them. Marc Savard has tortured the Penguins in his career and is off to a hot start this season.

Transition Game: No one will confuse any of the current Bruins defensive squad with Bobby Orr but they do try and imitate him. Boston’s defense likes to join the rush and has gotten caught deep on plays. If the Penguins can trap those defensemen with a quick transition game, then Pittsburgh can create odd-man rushes the other way.

Special Teams: Boston has a league-low 14 power plays. They aren’t drawing many extra-man advantages. Not to mention they’ve taken a number of unnecessary penalties that have cost them goals (cross-checking, goaltender interference). Pittsburgh will get its opportunities on the power play.
The Bruins will be psyched for the showdown with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night at 7 p.m. Not only will they be geared up to play the defending Eastern Conference Champions but the game will be Boston’s home opener at TD Banknorth Garden. Boston went 2-1-1 in four road games to start the season, with victories over Colorado and Ottawa. The Bruins erased a 3-0 deficit to the Canadiens before losing in a shootout.

Head coach Claude Julien ended a two-year postseason drought when he led the Bruins into the playoffs last season in his first year behind the bench. Boston sneaked into the playoffs as the eight seed and stubbornly forced a seventh game before falling to top-seeded Montreal – a team that was 8-0 against the Bruins in the regular season. Most promising for Boston is that the team qualified despite injuries to forward Patrice Bergeron and goaltender Manny Fernandez.
Marc Savard is on a hot streak to begin the season, netting five goals and four assists (nine points) in four games. He led the team last season with 78 points (15G-63A) in 74 games. Savard has always been a better set-up man than a finisher. The acquisition of Michael Ryder (two 30-goal seasons) from Montreal will give Savard someone who can bury his passes. The two play alongside P.J. Axelsson, who isn’t a top-flight scorer but is solid in his own zone. Axelsson missed Saturday night's game against the Senators. He skated at the morning skate but didn't dress for the game. His status is unknown for Monday.

The second line consists of Bergeron centering between Milan Lucic and Phil Kessel. Bergeron’s return is a huge boost for the Bruins. He was lost after 10 games when he suffered a concussion, compliments of Philadelphia’s Randy Jones. Before the injury-lost season, Bergeron posted 73- and 70-point seasons. Kessel hasn’t lived up to his No. 5 overall selection yet. But he’s still only 21 years old and Bergeron’s return should help his production. Keep an eye on the 20-year-old Lucic (pronounced LOO-cheech). The 6-foot-4, 220-pound forward supplanted Marco Sturm on the second line and is a big body to move from in front of the net. The team thinks so highly of the kid that when Axelsson missed the Ottawa game, Lucic saw action on the Bruins' top line.
The Bruins defense is anchored by the gargantuan 6-foot-9, 255-pound Zdeno Chara. He’s a dominant presence on the ice and will likely be matched against Pittsburgh’s top line. Dennis Wideman re-signed to a four-year deal in the offseason. The 25-year-old logged more than 25 minutes a game and now will have to prove that he was worth the $15.5-million investment. Chara and Wideman get the bulk of the ice time and there is a significant drop off in the rest of Boston’s defensive corps. Former Penguin Andrew Ference and aging Aaron Ward (35 years old) are the second pair with Mark Stuart and Shane Hnidy rounding out the group.
Fernandez’s return from right knee surgery will help ease the burden on 34-year-old Tim Thomas and give the Bruins a quality duo in net. But the Bruins will probably still be cautious with Fernandez because of the sensitivity that goes with knee injuries. Thomas shouldered the burden well, producing his best season as a pro with a 28-19-6 record, 2.44 goals against average and .921 save percentage. Though he seemed to be tiring late in the season, the Bruins hope Fernandez’s return keeps both men fresh. Fernandez has had success against Pittsburgh, giving up only five goals in four career games against the Penguins.
Penguins’ killer Glen Murray is gone, along with Glenn Metropolit. Ryder was general manager Peter Chiarelli’s big free agent signee. Forward Blake Wheeler was a lower-level signing from Phoenix and currently skates on the third line. Bergeron and Fernandez were already on the team, but only played a combined 14 games last season. So their return is the biggest addition to the team.
The Vancouver native recorded 27 points (8G-19A) in his rookie campaign. But what really stood out was his 13 fights, 89 penalty minutes and 181 hits, second to only Chara. He’s currently skating on the second line but was promoted to the top line when Axelsson went down. The second-round-pick is a big, physical forward that plays a break-neck style. He plays with emotion and is equipped with a lot of skill. He could become a dominant power forward in this league.
"Every home opener there's a long thing before the game. They'll be out there standing for a little while and we'll be in the (locker) room. We'll be ready. I'm not worried about that."
  - Pascal Dupuis on playing in Boston
38: Number of points amassed by Marc Savard in 28 career games against the Penguins. The veteran forward scored nine goals and 29 assists against Pittsburgh.



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