Bruins - Wings preview: Big games vs. East ahead

Bruins - Wings preview: Big games vs. East ahead
November 27, 2013, 2:15 pm
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The Bruins have one more game before entering the US Thanksgiving holiday in prime playoff position, and standing exactly where they want to be setting the pace as top dog in the Eastern Conference. The only thing now standing in their way is a divisional showdown against a Detroit Red Wings team they’ve traditionally struggled with over the years, and a Joe Louis Arena locale that hasn’t always been their most welcoming hockey environment.

But the Bruins will continue a challenging Thanksgiving week against fellow Eastern Conference contenders in the Penguins, Red Wings and Rangers by attempting to add to their season point total. It’s up to the Bruins to do the damage now as they’ve played 19 games against Eastern Conference opponents, that’s at least five more games vs. the East than anybody else in the Atlantic Division.

That means the Bruins need to do their damage now before the schedule – and some long West Coast trips – begin to take a bite out of the Black and Gold’s quality of play.

“They always give us a good game. It’s great games when we play them. The last game we lost, and I thought we played extremely well with lots of chances and offensive zone time,” said Claude Julien. “They don’t need that many opportunities, though, because they capitalize on them. It will be a fun game and another good challenge, and another part of a tough week that we feel like we have ahead of us.”

It should be a little easier for the Black and Gold as the banged up Wings aren’t playing their best hockey, and will be missing Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi as well as Jimmy Howard from their lineup.

But it’s still Detroit and Joe Louis Arena, so the Bruins will be ready for a run for their money on Wednesday night.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Brad Marchand has three goals and nine points in 24 games after being the Bruins leading scorer last season. It’s time for the Nose Face Killah to get things going, and consistently bring the agitating and offensive game that everybody knows he has deep down inside. The unwillingness to annoy opponents and fight to get to the front of the net speak to a player whose pilot light is flickering a little bit. He needs to fully turn it back on before he gets passed by players like Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “It’s a foreign building for me. I’m in my seventh year and I’ve only played one game at Joe Louis Arena. They definitely add a different element to the Eastern Conference with the experience, and the elite team that they are. It’s another big test waiting for us in this Thanksgiving week.” –Milan Lucic, who is excited about playing in the old barn in Detroit.

KEY MATCHUP: With Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi out of the mix for Wednesday night’s Wings/Bruins tilt, the Bruins top defensemen pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton will have one simple rule: shut down Henrik Zetterberg. The Wings have been incredibly top heavy with their scoring this season, and are being carried by Zetterberg and Datsyuk. It will be incumbent on guys like Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen step up for Detroit, but Zetterberg should be the guy that Boston is looking to take away from Detroit in the divisional showdown.

STAT TO WATCH: 39 – the number of years since the last time the Bruins and Red Wings have played at Joe Louis Arena as divisional rivals on March 2, 1974. The game was smack dab in the middle of the Bobby Orr Era, and the two teams played to a 4-4 tie on that day.

INJURIES: Defensemen Adam McQuaid (lower body) and Dennis Seidenberg (lower body) are day-to-day for the Bruins. Seidenberg has been ruled out for Wednesday night while McQuaid will be a game time decision.

Danny DeKeyser (upper body) is expected to miss at least a month, Pavel Datsyuk is working through concussion protocols and Todd Bertuzzi has an undisclosed upper-body injury that’s not related to the back injury that sidelined him most of last season.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask will be back in net for his second straight game after sitting out the weekend win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Rask is third in the NHL with a 1.69 goals against average and a .943 save percentage, and only trails the surprising Ben Scrivens of the Los Angeles Kings in both categories. This will be Rask’s 21st game played in 25 games for the Bruins this season as he’s on a pace to play well over 70 games this season.

The Red Wings will start the Monster, Jonas Gustavsson, after he played well vs. the Bruins in Detroit win in Boston earlier this season while a struggling Jimmy Howard hasn’t won a game since Nov. 1. Gustavsson is 5-0-1 with a 2.36 goals against average and a .926 save percentage for the Wings in the best NHL stretch of his career.