The Bruins should be getting both Shawn Thornton and Loui Eriksson back in the lineup on Saturday night, according to NHL.com, and the hope is that will stabilize a Black and Gold unit that’s been in need of a tourniquet since Dennis Seidenberg went down six games ago. That will bring some energy and quality two-way play back into the lineup, but there are also a couple of levels that the entire Bruins team can elevate their level of play.
They can start by not falling down by a 3-0 deficit before they begin playing their typical hard-nosed game, and they can continue by shutting down a special teams mess that’s allowed eight power play goals in the last eight games. Most of all the Bruins need a strong showing to prove they’re not just another Eastern Conference patsy liable to get pounded when they play the Best in the West.
Because thus far they’ve been outscored by a 9-4 margin in road games vs. the Ducks and Kings, and drawn the ire of their head coach.
“We definitely could use more from our team, from the goaltender on out. We need big saves; we need our guys to manage the puck better,” said Claude Julien. “The mistakes that we’re making are very costly. Everybody needs to be a little better. We didn’t get much from our top two lines tonight, and you need that if you’re going to win some hockey games. They were pretty quiet.”
It sounds like the coach would like his best players to start acting like they’re his best players again.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Tuukka Rask is now 1-2 with a 3.81 goals against average and .880 save percentage in the month of January, and has been pulled twice in the six games since Dennis Seidenberg was lost with a knee injury. Given how poorly he’s played in the first two games of the current California road trip against the Ducks and Kings, the Bruins could use a statement game from the Finnish netminder to salvage two points on the three-game odyssey.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “We’ve got to be a better hockey club. It’s as simple as that. It needs to come from inside the dressing room. Guys need to be committed to winning the next game. Guys certainly don’t want to go 0-for-3 on this road trip. We’re going to need everything from big saves, to timely scoring, to minimizing mistakes and to making sure we’re prepared to play from start to finish.” –Bruins coach Claude Julien, on what the team needs to do in order to beat the Sharks on Saturday night.
KEY MATCHUP: The Sharks are without Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture despite the 3.1 goals per game that ranks 5th in the NHL, and still boast a hugely potent 1-2 combo in Jumbo Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Jumbo Joe will have plenty of motivation after getting shut out of the Canadian Olympic roster, and will be looking to pick apart the Bruins defense when Zdeno Chara isn’t on the ice. The Bruins need to snap out of a funk that’s seen them average 3.5 goals allowed per game in the contests since Dennis Seidenberg went out, or it could be another long, late evening out west.
STAT TO WATCH: 16-1-3 – the Sharks’ record in 20 games at the SAP Center this season in what will be an extremely inhospitable venue for the Black and Gold.
INJURIES: Boston forward Loui Eriksson (concussion) was cleared for contact and appears ready to return to the lineup Saturday night against the Sharks. Forward Chris Kelly (ankle) remains out as he also approaches a return. Jordan Caron has missed the last three games with a stiff back, but has practiced with the Bruins over the last few days. Johnny Boychuk will miss the game after returning to Boston for personal reasons with his expectant wife due to give birth to their twins this week.
San Jose defenseman Matt Irwin (upper body) is day-to-day. Forwards Logan Couture (hand), Marty Havlat (lower body), Tomas Hertl (knee), Adam Burish (lower body) and Raffi Torres (knee) are on injured reserve, and out for Saturday night’s tilt against the Bruins.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask has been pulled from two of his last five games, and allowed five goals in two of the other games as both the goalie and the defense in front of him find their new identity without Dennis Seidenberg. Rask is 21-11-2 with a 2.12 goals against average and .928 save percentage on the season – which clearly are above average numbers – but he’s taken a beating over the last couple of weeks while surrendering some soft goals.
Rask’s Finnish counterpart, Antti Niemi, will get the start against the Bruins with a 23-9-6 record along with a 2.43 goals against average and .912 save percentage for a dominant Sharks club. Niemi is coming off a 4-1 win over the Red Wings where he made 24 saves to shut down the Detroit offense, and will attempt to do the same vs. the Black and Gold.