Pittsburgh Penguins (39-22-4-82) vs. Boston Bruins (29-23-11-69)
09-10 Season Series: Series tied 1-1 09-10 Home vs. Boston: Penguins lead 1-0 All-Time vs. Boston: Penguins trail 55-97-24 All-Time Home vs. Boston: Penguins trail 34-36-17 Overtime: Penguins lead 8-2-10 Shootout: Series tied 2-2
Boston has languished around the bottom of the Eastern Conference just one season after claiming the top seed. Prior to Saturday’s night games the Bruins sit in the seventh spot in the conference, which would result in a first-round matchup with the Penguins if the season ended today. Sunday is the second leg of the Bruins’ season-long seven-game road swing. The Bruins defeated the New York Islanders, 3-2, on Saturday for their sixth victory in the past seven games. Boston is 6-2-2 over their past 10.
Daniel Paille – The former first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2002 has been an effective third-line addition for the Bruins. Paille has picked up nine goals and 17 points in 55 games with the Bruins since his acquisition on Oct. 20. Paille’s best offensive season came two seasons ago when he scored a career-high 19 goals for the Sabres.
Miroslav Satan – The former Penguin joined the Bruins as a free agent in early January. Since then he has been one of the Bruins better forwards with eight points (4G-4A) in 21 games. Satan might not have the most physical edge to his game, but even at 35 he still possess the hands which made him a four-time 30-goal scorer. Satan gave the Penguins good minutes as a depth forward during last season’s run to the Stanley Cup.
Dennis Seidenberg – Boston acquired the 28-year-old Seidenberg from the Florida Panthers at last Wednesday’s trade deadline. Seidenberg offers the Bruins a solid, two-way blueliner who leads the league with 180 blocked shots. A great skater with a good stick, Seidenberg has picked up 23 points (2G-21A) in 63 games with the Panthers and Bruins.
Patrice Bergeron – Boston’s top scorer returned to the lineup on Saturday against the Islanders after missing two games with a groin injury. He promptly picked up his 26th assist of the season. Bergeron, who is having a comeback season this year after missing plenty of action the past two seasons due to concussions, saw action alongside Sidney Crosby on Canada’s gold-medal winning squad in Vancouver. He is one of the top faceoff men in the NHL with a 57.6 percent success rate.
David Krejci – The third of Boston’s three playmaking pivots with Bergeron and Marc Savard (See Player Spotlight below), Krejci has picked his game up throughout the course of the season following a rough start. Krejci ranks third on the team with 32 points (12G-20A) in 60 games. He had a breakout season last year with 73 points (22G-51A) and a plus-37 rating in 82 games. Boston locked Krejci up long term last offseason.
Milan Lucic – Lucic is one of those players who will run over, through or past you – and most of the time it’s over and through. He ranks fifth on team with 95 hits despite playing in just 31 games. Lucic has battled both a finger fracture and an ankle sprain, causing him to miss 32 games. When he is healthy, there are few forwards in the game who are harder to move from the front of the cage than Lucic. He picked up his sixth goal of the season in Saturday’s victory over the Islanders.
Mark Recchi – Recchi might be the NHL’s oldest player at 42 years old, but the veteran sniper continues to perform at a high level for the Bruins. He ranks fourth on the team with 12 goals while his 31 points are sixth-best. A key member of the Penguins 1991 Stanley Cup championship squad, Recchi is just 27 points away from hitting the 1,500- point mark for his career.
Michael Ryder – There is no question Ryder is one of the streakiest goal scorers in the NHL, but when he is on, he can snipe with anybody. Ryder has a great snap shot coming down the wing, which he has used to score 15 times thus far, second-most on the team. The four-time 20-goal scorer scored 27 last season in his first campaign with the Bruins.
Blake Wheeler – Another shrewd acquisition for the Bruins as an unsigned college free agent prior to last season, Wheeler was one of the NHL’s top rookies in 2008-09 with 21 goals, 45 points and a plus-37 rating. He has 13 goals in 63 games this season, giving him an outside shot at back-to-back 20-goal campaigns. Wheeler is an imposing figure in front of the net with his 6-foot-5 frame and delicate hands.
Patrice Bergeron Milan Lucic
Mark Recchi Blake Wheeler
Zdeno Chara – While many of his teammates have struggled around him, Boston’s captain and reigning Norris Trophy winner Chara continues to dominate at both ends of the rink. The 6-foot-9 blueliner with the cannon of a shot ranks second on the team with 35 points (5G-30A) in 63 games. Chara’s plus-7 rating leads all Bruins defensemen. Chara’s goal-scoring numbers are down this season as he has only five following back-to-back seasons of 19 and 17. In addition to the offense he provides, Chara remains one of the game’s top one-on-one defenders.
Andrew Ference – It’s hard to believe Ference is just 30-years-old because it seems like decades ago that he broke into the league with the Penguins. At 5-foot-11, Ference relies on his excellent skating stride and sound positioning to matchup with bigger forwards. When Ference began his career with the Penguins, he was expected to be more of an offensive rearguard, but his skill set has never translated into big numbers.
Matt Hunwick – Boston’s scouting staff scored a major coup when they claimed Hunwick with the 224th pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft out of the University of Michigan. The 24-year-old offers Boston another great skater along the back line. He has already tied his career high with six goals, although his rating has fallen from plus-15 last season to minus-12 this year.
Dennis Wideman – What a difference a year makes for Wideman. Last year the 26-year-old was among the breakout stars of the league with 50 points (13G-37A) and a plus-32 rating, but this season he has just three goals and 20 points through 57 games, while his minus-14 rating is the lowest on the team. Still, Wideman is an excellent two-way defender who supplies another quality shot along the point opposite Chara.
Zdeno Chara Dennis Wideman
Tuukka Rask – The 22-year-old Finn has to be considered a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year after his solid play has earned him a split of the No. 1 chores with Tim Thomas. The lanky backstop leads the NHL with a 2.15 goals-against average while his .926 save percentage ranks fourth. Rask spent much of the past two seasons apprenticing with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence, where he won 60 regular-season games and helped them advance to the third round of the postseason last year.
Tim Thomas – Last season’s Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goaltender appears to have righted his ship after a tough start to the season. Thomas has won back-to-back starts for the Bruins while Rask has sat out with an undisclosed injury. He stopped 37 shots in Saturday’s victory over the Islanders. Thomas has a .500 record on the season at 15-15-7, but his .916 save percentage is still plenty impressive. He saw brief action for Team USA in the semifinal victory over Finland when the Americans gave Ryan Miller a rest.
Tuukka Rask Tim Thomas
Marc Savard - If you are looking for a reason behind Boston’s struggles to score goals this season look no further than the injuries that have be felled Marc Savard. A point-per-game player the past five seasons, Savard has played only 40 games this season due to injury but he still ranks third on the team with 33 points (10G-23). One of the top playmakers in the game, Savard has notched at least 63 assists in four straight seasons. How important is Savard to the Bruins’ offense? When he notches a point this season the Bruins are 15-5-3; when Savard doesn’t get a point or hasn’t played, Boston is just 14-18-8.
“Don't get me wrong. I see us struggling to score. I saw us struggle last night. With the strength of our centermen and what I saw in the eight, nine games prior to last night, I believe this team can improve in its scoring." - Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli talking to Yahoo! Sports on the Bruins decision not to acquire a forward at the trade deadline.
“I was trying to show the team they could have some confidence in me, because they haven’t played in front of me in a while. So you make a save like that, and it helps your confidence and your team’s confidence.” - Boston goaltender Tim Thomas talking to the Boston Herald following a 3-2 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
“We have to find it, that’s the bottom line. We’ve got what we’ve got and we have to try and make it work. We made it work last year and we’ve got a lot of great scorers here. For whatever reason, it hasn’t happened. But we’ve still got (20) games and it could make for a great season for a lot of guys.” - Boston center Marc Savard telling the Boston Herald how he believes the team can find their offensive firepower down the stretch.
147 Boston ranks dead last in the NHL with just 147 goals on the season
22 The Bruins have played a league-high 22 overtime games this season. Boston is 11-2-9 when the game stretches beyond 60 minutes