Bruins Set to Welcome Top Ranked Pittsburgh

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The Boston Bruins (26-11-5) will welcome the top ranked Pittsburgh Penguins (33-10-0) to town Friday night. The Bruins, just four days removed from Monday’s horrific happenings, will look to put an end to their season long three game skid. This heavyweight showdown will be the third and final meeting between the clubs this year. The B’s have yet to beat the Pens, coming up short twice in March, losing 3-2 and 2-1.

This tilt surely has all the makings of a great one, as it could arguably be an Eastern Conference Finals preview. The Black-and-Gold has had its fair share of struggles in facing Pittsburgh in recent years. The Penguins have knocked off the Bruins five straight times dating back to last season, including five consecutive wins at TD Garden.

With everyone still mourning disaster, the Bruins are hoping to give the hometown faithful something to cheer about. Following Wednesday’s 3-2 loss, Claude Julien made it clear that winning for the city of Boston is his team’s main priority moving forward. Defeating the Penguins will by no means erase the somber feelings shared by thousands, though achieving victory in a game of such immense magnitude could go a long way in aiding the healing process.

Boston is a vastly different team from the last time they squared off with Pittsburgh. Newcomers Jaromir Jagr and Carl Soderberg (likely to debut Friday) provide the Bruins with the added offensive versatility needed to compete with the explosive Pens lineup. Come puck drop, Claude Julien will unveil yet another set of new look lines that should give way to a more efficient and dynamic style of play.

As for the Penguins, a win will eliminate any chance of Boston making a run at the Conference’s top spot. Playing without stars Sidney Crosby (broken jaw) and Evgeni Malkin (sore shoulder) has not seemed to slow them down. They have emerged victorious in five straight and have now won eight of their last ten. The acquisitions of Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray, Jussi Jokinen, and Brenden Morrow have bolstered their lineup nicely.

Pittsburgh possesses the ability to the beat their opponents in a variety of different ways, especially in their attacking end. The B’s will have to be on top of their game. Receiving production from their top players will be essential. Boston displayed considerable improvements in their fore checking, willingness to maintain a steady net front presence, and a commitment to winning puck battles against Buffalo. If they are able to build upon those aspects Friday, the Bruins won’t be far from taking off.

Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have been spectacular night in and night out. Their combined 2.1 GAA (goals against average) ranks them among the best tandems in the NHL. Both Rask and Khudobin each have one start respectively against the Pens this season. Rask is the probable starter given the simple fact that Khudobin got the nod last time out. Tuukka was solid in his March 17 outing at Console Energy Center, surrendering only two goals. One of which was registered in the game’s closing seconds (Boston fell 2-1).

Assuming the Bruins continue to get quality goaltending and dependable defensive play, the goal scoring should follow. With the city on their backs, Boston will take great pride in putting forth an inspiring effort. Unquestionably the motivation to succeed will be ever present. Whether or not the B’s embrace that and ride it to triumph remains to be seen. The stakes will be high and emotions will be running wild in this one. Look for Boston to come out strong from the get go and lament themselves as a force to be reckon with.

Game Notes:

*Milan Lucic was demoted to the fifth line in practice Thursday. Sporting a green jersey in Boston’s line rushes signifies he may be a healthy scratch come game time.

*Carl Soderberg skated alongside Chris Kelly and Jaromir Jagr in practice meaning he is likely in line to make his Bruins debut.

Gametime: 7:00PM

Location: TD Garden

TV/Radio: NESN+/98.5 The Sports Hub

 

Projected lineup is as follows:

Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin

Paille-Krejci-Horton

Soderberg-Kelly-Jagr

Campell-Peverley-Thornton

Chara-Boychuk

Seidenberg-Hamilton

McQuaid-Ference

Rask/Khudobin

Frank O’Laughlin – NHL Contributor – TitleTown Sports

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