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What to Watch For: Pens vs. Bruins

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

PENGUINS (41-21-5) vs. BRUINS (40-24-3)
WHEN: March 11, 2012 - 12:30 pm  |  WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH: NBC  |  LISTEN: Penguins Radio 24/7, 105.9 FM

With their win over Buffalo on Thursday, the Bruins won consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 12 – a positive sign for a team that’s been uncharacteristically inconsistent since the calendar flipped. Though they’ve looked at times like the team that completely dominated the league back in November and December, the B’s couldn’t extend their streak to three in a row when they lost a close one to Washington on Saturday afternoon.

Milan Lucic and David Krejci have been thriving on a line together with Tyler Seguin. (Getty Images)
Despite the loss, Boston remains on the top of the Northeast Division (and second in the Eastern Conference) with 83 points, but it’s a precarious hold as Ottawa was just three points behind them in the standings entering their Saturday night tilt against Buffalo.

The Bruins have sorely missed two of their top six forwards in Nathan Horton (concussion) and Rich Peverley (knee sprain). But Boston – who still ranks second in the league with 3.18 goals per game – has gotten a lift from their red-hot line of David Krejci, Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic.

The trio has been together for the last six games and has combined for 11 goals and 21 points over that span. Lucic, who scored against Washington to extend his point streak to six games, now has 23 tallies this season – making him just one of three players in the league with at least 20 goals and 100-plus penalty minutes. Krejci has six goals in his last eight games, including a hat trick on March 7 vs. New Jersey, while the 20-year-old Seguin has seven points (4G-3A) in his last six outings.

Boston has also received a spark from young forward Jordan Caron, the team’s first-round pick (25th overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft. Caron, 21, has three goals and three assists in his last four games and has been a solid presence for the B’s as they try to regain their November/December form. The big-bodied winger plays a straight-line, north-south style that involves a lot of buzzing around the net, and it’s been a driving force for Boston.

All-Star goalie Tim Thomas will be forced to carry much of the load heading into the playoffs, as partner Tuukka Rask suffered a lower abdominal/groin strain on March 3 and will miss 4-6 weeks. The Bruins signed veteran Marty Turco to a one-year contract on Monday to serve as Thomas’ backup while Rask recovers. And since Sunday will be Boston’s second game in as many days, coach Claude Julien hinted on Friday that Turco could get the start against Pittsburgh – which would be his first NHL action since last February.


Krejci has been thriving on a line with Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin, as the Bruins center has points in five of the six games he’s centered those two wingers. After being mired in a slump that saw him produce just two points in a 13-game span, Krejci has rediscovered his scoring touch with six goals in his last eight contests – including his second career hat trick on March 1 vs. New Jersey. But finding the back of the net isn’t Krejci’s biggest strength – it’s helping his teammates accomplish that. Krejci has excellent vision and passing skills, is a talented playmaker and is strong in the faceoff dot, so look for him to make his presence felt on Sunday.


Jordan Staal is continuing to operate in beast mode for the Penguins. The center might be just 23 years old, but he’s a seasoned pro at this level and has matured into a truly dominating force. His offense has taken off, as enters Sunday’s game on a career-high seven-game point streak, where he’s recorded three goals and seven assists over that span. But Staal is one of the Penguins’ best shutdown forwards, and they’ll need him to do his part contain the explosive Bruins. That includes off the draw, as Boston leads the NHL in faceoff winning percentage and has plenty of threats down the middle. Staal has been strong in that area his last two games, going 28-10 (73 percent), and that success rate needs to continue vs. the Bruins.

For just the third time this season, Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin has gone back-to-back games without recording a point entering Sunday’s game against Boston. The last time Malkin went two straight games without a point was Dec. 31 and Jan. 6. He followed those scoreless contests up by scoring a goal against New Jersey on Jan. 7. Malkin also went back-to-back games without a point on Nov. 17 and 19, before tallying a goal and an assist against the New York Islanders on Nov. 21. Malkin hasn’t gone three straight games without a point since Nov. 26-29, 2010 –a span of 69 games.

With 499 career points (196G-303A), Malkin is just one shy of becoming only the 17th Russian-born player, and fifth active, to reach 500 points. When he hits 500, Malkin will tie Syl Apps for eighth place on the team’s all-time point list.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury enters Sunday's game having won seven straight decisions dating back to Feb. 18. However, because he made a relief appearance in between, officially he only has a six-game winning streak. That’s his second-longest winning streak of the season behind the nine-game run he had from Jan. 13-Feb. 4. Fleury has a 10-1 record in his last 11 home starts and he is 17-2-1 in his last 20 starts dating back to Jan. 13 at Florida.

Fleury has gone 5-2 in his last seven starts against the Bruins dating back to a victory on March 7, 2010. In those seven starts, Fleury has posted a 1.71 goals-against average (12GA/421MIN) and stopped 191-of-203 shots for a .941 save percentage. On Feb. 4, Fleury denied 28-of-29 shots in a 2-1 Pittsburgh victory at TD Garden.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will not play against the Bruins. However, he has had no symptoms or setbacks since being cleared for contact Tuesday. Click here for all the details on Crosby.

Defenseman Paul Martin missed Pittsburgh's Friday contest with an illness. He didn't practice Saturday and his status against Boston is unknown.

Defensemen Deryk Engelland (lower-body) and Kris Letang (symptoms) both practiced with their teammates Saturday afternoon.

"Both Kris Letang and Deryk Engelland practiced with the team, which was a good sign for Kris, and Deryk is probably day-to-day at this point in time," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "We know Sidney Crosby is not going to be playing (Sunday). He Is doing well this week. He will continue to practice with us and go forward from here. (Martin is) still just ill."

Goalie Brent Johnson has not practiced since Wednesday with an undisclosed injury.

C Sidney Crosby, concussion-like symptoms (40)
D Deryk Engelland, lower body (3)
G Brent Johnson, undisclosed (9)
D Kris Letang, symptoms (5)
D Paul Martin, illness (1)

D Andrew Ference, lower body (5)
F Nathan Horton, concussion (21)
F Daniel Paille, undisclosed (4)
F Rich Peverley, knee sprain (12)
G Tuukka Rask, lower abdominal/groin strain (4)

Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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