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Pittsburgh vs. Boston Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (12-7-0-24) vs. Boston Bruins (8-7-3-19)

Where: Mellon Arena
Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m.
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428, DirecTV 659 and Verizon Fios 576.
*View FSN's Broadcast Schedule here()

Season Series:
Pittsburgh and Boston go head-to-head for the second time in a five-day span. The Bruins defeated the Penguins, 3-0, at TD Garden on Tuesday night. Patrice Bergeron led the way for Boston with a goal and an assist while Matt Hunwick and Daniel Paille added the other tallies. Tim Thomas stopped all 27 shots for the shutout. After Saturday night’s contest the two teams do not meet again until March 7, also in Pittsburgh, and they wrap the season series back in Boston on March 18.




Last Meeting: 11/10/09
BOS (3) - PIT (0)
Game Highlights
Game Recap
Solve Tim Thomas: To say Tim Thomas has found his 2008-09 form would be an understatement. Thomas will enter Saturday’s game against the Penguins coming off back-to-back shutout performances after losing, 1-0, to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. Now the league leader with three goose eggs, Thomas has recovered from a tough start which saw his goals-against average sit at 3.20 and his save percentage an underwhelming .896 three weeks into the season to a current top-five ranking in both.

Possible Return of Evgeni Malkin:
The Penguins have been victorious in only two of the seven games missed thus far by Evgeni Malkin, who will be a game-time decision against the Bruins. Not only would Malkin help an offense which has averaged only 1.7 goals without him in the lineup, but head coach Dan Bylsma said Malkin’s presence provides an inspiration with the work ethic and tenacity he brings to the table:

“It is not only the points, the speed and how he plays with the puck. There is a work ethic there. He is a guy who leads the league in takeaways as well. There is a tenaciousness that he brings to the game that adds not just in the point totals.”
Boston struggled following the lockout, missing the playoffs in each of the first two seasons after the National Hockey League’s return in ’05-06, but they appear to have turned the corner and moved back into the group of elite teams. The Bruins posted the best record in the Eastern Conference during the ’08-09 season, winning their most games (53) since the Bobby Orr Era in 1971-72 – also the last time they won the Stanley Cup. Boston was eliminated from the postseason in the quarterfinals by the Carolina Hurricanes last spring in a tightly-contested seven-game series.

The Bruins’ resurgence has coincided with the naming of Claude Julien as head coach on June 21, 2007. A defensive-minded coach, Julien’s system has proven to be perfect for a team built around a solid defense led by Zdeno Chara and great goaltending with Tim Thomas. Entering this season Julien had a career record of 213-134-64. He won the Jack Adams Award last season for leading the Bruins to the second-best record in the NHL.
Already one of the tougher teams in the NHL, Boston added even more of a physical presence to the lineup when they signed free agent defenseman Derek Morris away from the New York Rangers. The 12-year veteran joins his fifth team following stints with New York, Phoenix, Colorado and Calgary. In his first year in the black-and-gold Morris is off to a fast start offensively, ranking second on the team (tied) with nine points (1G-8A).

Offensively the Bruins have added two new faces to the mix, checking-line performers Steve Begin and Daniel Paille. Begin has stepped up with the absence of centers Marc Savard and David Krejci to post nine points (2G-7A) through the first 18 games. His career high in points is 23 (11G-12A), set with the Montreal Canadiens in ’05-06, so he is well on his way to challenging that figure. Paille, the 20th-overall selection in the 2002 draft, fell victim to a numbers game in Buffalo and was acquired from the Sabres for two future draft picks on Oct. 20. He is a skilled offensive player who registered 19 and 12 goals for Buffalo the previous two seasons. Paille has five points (1G-4A) in 11 games with the Bruins with his goal coming 3:34 into the third period of Tuesday’s game against the Penguins when he scored on a breakaway against Marc-Andre Fleury
An offensive juggernaut last season, scoring has been an issue for the Bruins early this season thanks to a rash of injuries to their big guns and the preseason trade of 36-goal scorer Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They appeared to break out of that slump by scoring a combined seven goals in back-to-back wins over the Buffalo Sabres and the Penguins, but regressed on Thursday, suffering a 1-0 shutout loss to the Florida Panthers. Among the walking wounded are Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. Second-year power forward Blake Wheeler continues to build off his solid rookie campaign, ranking second (tied) for Boston with four goals. He scored 21 times as a rookie for the Bruins in ’08-09. Patrice Bergeron (See Player Spotlight Below) has anchored the top line with Marco Sturm and future Hall of Famer and former Penguin Mark Recchi. Sturm, a six-time 20-plus goal scorer, has recovered from a torn ACL which limited him to only 19 games in ’08-09, as he has three goals and five assists though 18 games. Recchi, still going strong at 41, was great for Boston at the end of last season after arriving from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline. He scored 10 times in 16 regular-season games and added six points (3G-3A) in 11 playoff contests. His assist on Danile Paille’s goal against the Penguins on Tuesday was the 900th of his NHL career.

Sharp-shooting Michael Ryder justified the Bruins decision to give him a mega-bucks deal during the 2008 offseason when he rebounded from a down year in ’07-08 to score 27 goals his first campaign in Boston. He has six points (3G-3A) so far in ’09-10. Center David Krejci emerged as a top talent last season, finished second behind Savard on the Bruins with 73 points (22G-51A). He was rewarded with a contract extension in the offseason. Perhaps trying too hard to live up to that deal, Krejci, who recently missed two games due to H1N1, is off to a slow start with only one goal and five points through 16 games.
Boston has built a rock-solid defensive corps that prides itself on being physical defensively and capable of adding offense at the other end of the rink. Leading the charge is reining Norris Trophy winner and the tallest player in league history, 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara. Impossible to get around at one end, and a player whose shot you probably wouldn’t want to get in front of at the other, Chara has grown into his body and has become a complete defenseman. His 19 goals last year were the most by a Bruins defenseman since Ray Bourque hit the same figure in 1996-97.

Boston’s defense is more than just Chara. Dennis Wideman is an underrated two-way blueliner whose career has taken off since arriving from the St. Louis Blue for sniper Brad Boyes in 2007. Wideman has scored 13 goals in each of his two seasons in Boston, while his 50 points (13G-37A) and plus-32 in ’08-09 were each career highs. Former Penguin Andrew Ference was a crowd favorite during his time in Pittsburgh and is a perfect defensive defender in the new NHL with his blend of skating and physical play. Matt Hunwick is a 24-year-old former University of Michigan product who added even more firepower to the Boston defense with 27 points (6G-21A) in 53 games last season. His top-shelf backhander to open the scoring in the first matchup between Pittsburgh and Boston was a thing of beauty. Through his first 82 games at the NHL level Hunwick has 31 points (9G-23A) and a plus-11 rating.
A late bloomer, Tim Thomas bounced around the hockey world from the University of Vermont to Finland to Sweden and finally to the American League before finding a permanent home in Boston following the lockout. It has been worth the wait as Thomas has established himself as one of the premier netminders in hockey, and a serious candidate to backstop Team USA at the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Thomas was exceptional during the ’08-09 campaign, winning his first Vezina Trophy as top goaltender in the NHL, being named First-Team All-Star and sharing the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goal-against per game with Manny Fernandez. Thomas led the league in both goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.933), while his 36 wins ranked sixth. He uses an unconventional style between the pipes, relying more on acrobatics than any particular method to stop the rubber.

Backup Tuukka Rask, the Bruins’ goaltender of the future, recently inked a two-year contract extension, giving Boston enviable depth in the crease. The 22-year-old Rask is in his first full-time season with the Bruins after winning 60 games the past two seasons for the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in Providence. He has a 3-1-1 record with one shutout in ’08-09.
It is rare for any selection outside the top-10 to make his NHL debut the immediate fall of his draft year, and even rarer for a prospect not drafted in the opening round, but Patrice Bergeron, a second-round selection in 2003, pulled the feat by dressing for 71 games in 2003-04, scoring 39 points (16G-23A) as the youngest player in the league.

During the lockout the following season Bergeron teamed with Sidney Crosby on Team Canada at the World Junior Championship and scored 13 points (5G-8A) in six games as the Canadians captured the Gold Medal. The two seasons following the lockout saw Bergeron register 73 and 70 points. The following two seasons saw Bergeron appear in only 74 combined games due to a serious battle with post-concussion syndrome. Bergeron appears back on track this season, leading the Bruins with 12 points (6G-6A). 
Boston continues to play without two of their key offensive talents.
- Center Marc Savard, the Bruins leading scorer with 88 points (25G-63A) a year ago has missed the past nine games with a broken foot. He remains out indefinitely.
- Bruising winger Milan Lucic joins Savard on long-term IR. He suffered a broken finger and is expected to sit at least the next couple weeks.
"You can’t get on the guys for not trying … because this game -- any way you watched it -- if you didn’t know the final score you probably would have said it was our game."

— Bruins head coach Claude Julien told the Bruins official website after the Bruins lost a heartbreaking 1-0 shootout decision to the Florida Panthers.

41: Boston’s goal-scoring total through 18 games, tied for the second-lowest figure in the Eastern Conference.

Author: Jason Seidling

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