BOSTON -- The Carolina Hurricanes roll into Boston having dropped all three games of a homestand in Carolina by an aggregate score of 14-4. They have the look of a team that’s about to be given its last rights for this season. The Canes could be without Alex Semin, Cam Ward, Justin Faulk and Joni Pitkanen for Monday night’s tilt at TD Garden, and that should leave them in a weakened state for the Black and Gold.
That being said, the Bruins are having problems of their own without Patrice Bergeron. They’ve scored two goals or less in eight of their last 11 games, and a grand total of two goals in their last two games against the Devils and Canadiens. Those goals were also a bit fluky as one went off Jaromir Jagr’s skate on a pass intended for one of his linemates, and the other was a Johnny Boychuk shot that rocketed off Daniel Paille’s back.
Coach Claude Julien was preaching for his Bruins to beware of a fearless Hurricanes bunch rolling in without the weight of the world on their shoulders. Those teams can sometimes be the most dangerous when it’s getting late in the season.
“They’ve got talent. There’s another team hit by the injury bug,” Julien said. “They’ve always played us well. We’ve always had tough games against them. You look at that team and I don’t think they’re sitting there saying ‘We’re done.’
“They’re looking to make the playoffs. Sure it’s more of a long shot than a sure thing, but you’re playing your best when you’ve got nothing to lose. They’ve got some pretty good goal-scoring guys, some guys that can do some damage to you.”
The Bruins need to minimize that damage and simply take care of business against a Hurricanes team that should walk back out of the TD Garden tonight empty handed in the points department if Boston does its job.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Tyler Seguin went without a shot in Saturday’s loss to the Hurricanes, was dropped from his position centering one of the top lines after some defensive issues, and has now been dropped to the third line with Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille. Seguin has been pretty good since the first month of the season, and Claude Julien has to hope that switching back over to right wing will free up Seguin offensively. Nonetheless, the Bruins could use Seguin stepping up just as he did the last time Patrice Bergeron was out of the lineup with a concussion.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “I say a good defense creates good offense. I think we can be better there, but somehow we need to find a way to create more opportunities. For the most part we get our chances in games, but where we fail is to produce on those scoring chances.” – Claude Julien
KEY MATCHUP: It comes down to David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton doing damage against the Carolina Hurricanes with Patrice Bergeron out of the lineup. It would be nice to get some production in other areas, but Horton needs to bury some of the wide open chances he’s been getting in front of the net over the last two weeks. The Bruins also need to be willing to shoot the puck on the power play, something that memorably didn’t happen in the final minute of Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens. They need to also stop making excuses after the game is over; blaming the ice, injuries or the schedule isn’t going to cut it anymore.
STAT TO WATCH: Eight – That's the number of games in their last 11 overall games played in which the Bruins have scored less than two goals.
INJURIES: For Carolina, Alex Semin sat out Saturday with an upper-body injury and is questionable for Monday’s game against the Bruins. Goalie Cam Ward and defenseman Justin Faulk are both out with knee injuries, and Joni Pitkanen (heel) is done for the season. For the Bruins, forward Chris Kelly is expected to return to the lineup after missing 14 games with a broken left tibia. Do-everything center Patrice Bergeron (concussion) and defenseman Adam McQuaid (shoulder) are out indefinitely, though McQuaid is closing in on a return.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Coming off a pair of strong performances against the Devils and Canadiens, Tuukka Rask should be getting his third straight start against the Hurricanes on Monday night. Rask has stopped 67-of-69 shots in those last two games while posting a .971 save percentage, and appears to be hitting his stride at exactly the proper time with only 11 games remaining in the season. Whether it’s Dan Ellis or Justin Peters, it’s clear the Hurricanes aren’t going to get the same kind of goaltending they could have expected if Cam Ward were healthy.