Bruins - Ducks preview: Starting out West with a bang

Bruins - Ducks preview: Starting out West with a bang
January 7, 2014, 7:15 pm
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Against the Kings, Tuuka Rask was pulled for the third time in the past 10 games.

(AP Photo)

The Bruins have been one of the stalwart Eastern Conference teams that continues to show resistance against the Western teams that have burned and pillaged their way through the East this season. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins can rival the 8-2-2 record that the Black and Gold have featured against the West this season, and that includes a sterling 5-1 record for the B's against the Pacific Division opponents they’ll see in California over the next week.

But the Bruins also haven’t yet experienced the most difficult part of playing Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose: facing them down in their own backyard.

The Western Conference odyssey starts at the Honda Center on Tuesday night where the Ducks haven’t lost in regulation this season and with Jonas Hiller looking for his 12th straight victory between the pipes.

“Those three California teams . . . it’s going to be a test playing there,” said Reilly Smith. “You never know what’s going to happen out there, so you have to give your best effort for every one of those games or it won’t be close.”

It’ll be just as challenging against the Kings at the Staples Center and a pumped Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks, fresh off Jumbo Joe’s snub from the Team Canada Olympic roster, at the Shark Tank this weekend.

But the Ducks are the team at the top of that heap, and Boston’s undermanned defense will be challenged by the big, physical, skilled attack that Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf can brandish in Anaheim.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: In his last four games Matt Fraser hasn’t registered a shot on goal, is a minus-2 and hasn’t topped more than 10 minutes of ice time despite skating with Ryan Spooner and Carl Soderberg. Fraser hasn’t done much with the opportunity given to him aside from drop the gloves a couple of times, and that’s not really what the Bruins want to see out of him. They want to see the 23-year-old shoot the puck and score some goals rather than cobble together just one point – a gift goal hand-wrapped to him by Nashville goalie Carter Hutton – in 12 games with the Bruins.

 
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “It’s pretty obvious when you watch [Anaheim] play that they’ve got some guys that they lean on, just like we do. But when you look at the scoring it’s pretty shared, and they seem to have that pack mentality just like we do.” –Claude Julien, ready for a battle with a big, strong, skilled Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night.

 
KEY MATCHUP: This game will be all about Zdeno Chara and the Bruins defenseman corps shutting down Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and it will be the best test to do date for B’s defenseman Dougie Hamilton. The Bruins are looking at the 20-year-old in a potential shutdown role alongside Chara, and this is the exact kind of big, strong, savvy, skilled opponents that Hamilton must be able to survive skirmishes with in the defensive zone. It’s these kind of games that will help the Bruins determine what exactly they need to go shopping for at the trade deadline with Dennis Seidenberg done for the year.  


STAT TO WATCH: 5-1 – the Bruins’ sterling record against Pacific Division teams this season with three games this week on the road against the Ducks, Kings and Sharks.

 
INJURIES: Loui Eriksson is still out with a concussion, but is now practicing with the team without yet being cleared for contact. Jordan Caron (back) is out for Tuesday night after missing last weekend’s win over Winnipeg. Centers Chris Kelly (ankle) and Marc Savard (concussion) are on injured reserve. Left wing Shawn Thornton (suspension) will be eligible to come off the suspension against the Sharks on Jan. 11, and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg (knee) is out for the season.

For Anaheim, defenseman Luca Sbisa (hand), goalie Viktor Fasth (lower body) and defenseman Sheldon Souray (wrist) are on injured reserve.

 
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask had a couple of days off following his 36-save performance against the Winnipeg Jets, and he’ll be tested by a Ducks team that’s playing dominant hockey with 13 wins in their last 14 games. Rask had a slightly up-and-down December, but he’s still among the NHL’s best goalies with a 21-9-2 with a 1.96 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.

Jonas Hiller is red-hot for the Anaheim Ducks, and will be going for his franchise-record 12th straight victory for Anaheim after emerging from a crowded goaltending competition that was suddenly thinned by injuries. Hiller is 20-4-4 with a 2.42 goals against average and .911 save percentage this season.