Bruins-Wild preview: Solving the Parise problem

Bruins-Wild preview: Solving the Parise problem
March 17, 2014, 3:30 pm
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PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Reilly Smith has only 17 shots on goal in nine games during the month of March –- with six of them coming in the B’s last win vs. the Hurricanes -- and has a pair of assists to show for his efforts, and is currently riding a 15-game goal-scoring drought. The 22-year-old hasn’t been a bad player by any means, but he also hasn’t been as noticeable as the games have become heavier and more competitive following the Olympic break. On some level there’s also a bit of a regression to the mean for Smith, who played some extraordinary hockey in the first half of his first NHL season in Boston. Monday night against the Wild would be a good time for him to bust out with so many other forwards performing at a high level.
 
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “We’re a mature team. We’ve been through a lot and we’ve learned from our ups and downs, especially our downs. You're a better and more mature team because of that. I know our players don’t get complacent, but it’s also my job to make sure it doesn’t get there. They can do their share and I have to do mine. That way we keep ourselves on our toes.” – Claude Julien on the mindset headed into the final 15 games of the season with the Bruins comfortably ahead in the division, and pulling away with the Eastern Conference lead.
 
KEY MATCHUP: The Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville forward line has 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) since forming for the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 30, and has given them a legitimate offensive provide for opposing defenses to contend with. That means Zdeno Chara and his defensive partner, whether it’s Dougie Hamilton or Andrej Meszaros, will have their work cut out for them shutting down a line that’s got skill, grit and the willingness to pay the price in front of the net. Parise is a poor man’s Sidney Crosby to many defenseman around the league, and that’s a compliment to his game.
 
STAT TO WATCH: 6-0-0 – That's the Wild's lifetime record vs. the Bruins at TD Garden. The B's have experienced big-time trouble against the Wild since they entered the league.
 
INJURIES: Wild forward Jason Zucker (leg surgery), and goalies Nicklas Backstrom and Josh Harding (illness) are on injured reserve for the time being.

Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk (leg) will not play after crashing into the end boards in the third period on Saturday afternoon. Defensemen Adam McQuaid (strained quadriceps) and Dennis Seidenberg (right knee surgery) are both on injured reserve, and out for the Bruins.
 
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice for the Boston Bruins, and will get his third start in the last four games for the Black and Gold coming off great back-to-back efforts against the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers. Rask is 5-0-0 with a .941 save percentage in his last five games, and has been on top of his game since returning from his Olympic experience with Team Finland.

It’ll be Darcy Kuemper for the Minnesota Wild, per the Tribune’s Michael Russo, rather than Ilya Bryzgalov. Kuemper has been solid for the Wild with both Josh Harding and Nicklas Backstrom out of the lineup, and is boasting a 12-4-4 record with a 2.19 goals against average and a .924 save percentage during his surprise NHL stint this season.