PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Reilly Smith has one goal in 14 games during a very slow month of March, and did recently end a long term slump with an important goal. He’s got 24 shots in the last 14 games and is still not quite operating at the same level of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and could use a few more strong, assertive games prior to the playoffs. Smith has looked far too invisible, far too much as the games have ratcheted up in importance following the Olympics.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “Nobody in the dressing room is going to forget that we played them in the Finals last year. No one is going to forget any of that, but I think tomorrow is not about remembering that, more than knowing it's going to be a good game between two good teams, and we should look forward to it.” – Claude Julien ready to jump into it with the Chicago Blackhawks once again.
KEY MATCHUP: With Patrick and Bryan Bickell both out of the lineup for the Chicago Blackhawks, it should be more about the Hawks defense trying to put the clamps on the Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla line. Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya had their issues shutting down Boston’s power line last spring, and one would expect that will be the same case with Iggy and Co. riding so high right now. Iginla has 11 goals in the Bruins last 13 games, and continues to dominate the month of March.
STAT TO WATCH: 4 – That's the number of consecutive victories for the Blackhawks over the Bruins dating back to Game 4 of last year’s Stanley Cup Final.
INJURIES: Boston has shut down defenseman Adam McQuaid (strained quad) for the last several weeks after he had a setback in his recovery, and hasn’t played an NHL game since Jan. 19. Dennis Seidenberg is out for the season with a right knee injury that required surgery, but the Bruins have not ruled out a potential return later in the playoffs based on being ahead of rehab schedule.
Chicago will not have forward Patrick Kane (lower body) or defenseman Michal Rozsival (lower body) against the Bruins. Forward Bryan Bickell (undisclosed) is on the road trip, but is out Thursday night against Boston.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask is 4-0-1 with a .956 save percentage in his last five games, and will get the starting nod against the Chicago Blackhawks after losing the shootout game to them back in January. Rask has lost four straight games to the Blackhawks, and should be primed for a big time effort given his recent stretch of stellar play.
Corey Crawford is having a pretty solid season putting together a 29-13-10 record to go along with a 2.20 goals against average and a .919 save percentage, and is 4-1-0 with a .939 save percentage in his last five games. The Bruins have to still feel like the old glove hand high weakness is there with Crawford, and will undoubtedly try to exploit it again as they did last spring in the Stanley Cup Final.