East meets West in a possible Stanley Cup Final preview on Tuesday when the Boston Bruins play host to the San Jose Sharks before what is sure to be a packed house at TD Banknorth Garden.
The Bruins, tops in the Eastern Conference with 39 wins and 85 points, are 6-1-3 over their last 10 while the Western Conference-leading Sharks, with 36 wins and 79 points, boast a 6-2-2 mark over the same time frame. Players from both sides will likely dub the meeting just another regular-season game -- don't believe it.
"I think it's a meaningful game," Boston General Manager Peter Chiarelli told NHL.com. "San Jose is the best in the West right now and they're the prototypical playoff team -- big and they have skill. I know the players are talking about it."
The Sharks are currently second in the League in shots per game (34.6) while allowing the fewest shots against (26.8). The contest not only features two of the League's finest sophomores in Boston's David Krejci (19 goals, 56 points) and San Jose's Devin Setoguchi (22 goals, 46 points) but three dynamite juniors in Boston's Phil Kessel (24 goals, 44 points) and San Jose's Ryane Clowe
(20 goals, 43 points) and Joe Pavelski
(13 goals, 37 points).
|Joe Pavelski and the Western Conference-leading Sharks are set to take on the NHL's best team, the Boston Bruins, tonight. (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images) |
"That's one of the teams we can measure ourselves against, for sure" Krejci told NHL.com. "It's just another game and the playoffs are far ahead. We have lots of time to work on our stuff."
Bruins All-Star goalie Tim Thomas (24-5-5, 2.10 goals-against average, .932 save percentage) was in the majority when reminded of the matchup at a recent practice.
"We'd forget we were playing San Jose if we weren't reminded by the media all the time," he said. Thomas is 8-1-2 in his last 11 games and 15-2-2 in his last 19, including a career-best seven-game win streak from Dec. 4-30.
While Bruins wing Michael Ryder will miss the matchup with a fractured facial bone, he recently admitted the matchup offers certain intrigue.
"We don't play those guys very much and they're the top team over there," Ryder said. "It's going to be a really good test for us to see where we stand and it'll be an exciting game. I'm looking forward to it."
Sharks center Joe Thornton
will be making his second trip to Boston as a member of San Jose. Thornton played seven-plus seasons with the Bruins before being traded to the Sharks in November 2005.
"I feel like I've been a Shark for a long time now," Thornton said. "It'll be a little bit funny, but I don't think now, being through it once before, it's going to be a big challenge for me."