It’s not going to be easy this time around.
After the Bruins swept the Jets in their first two meetings of the season –albeit with one goal wins in each of the games including a shootout win on an MLK Day matinee at TD Garden – the B’s will be staring at a Winnipeg club with some playoff hunger.
The Jets have clawed their way into the Eastern Conference’s top eight teams and taken points in seven of their last 10 games. Amazingly they’re doing it while only playing .500 hockey at the raucous MTS Centre this season, but that won’t change the volume or excitement level for a fan base that’s earned a reputation as one of the liveliest among the 30 NHL cities.
“We’ve never had an easy game in this building, so there’s no reason to think we’ll have one tonight,” said Claude Julien.
The Bruins certainly know they’ll need to bring their ‘A’ game despite missing two of their top three centers with injuries to Chris Kelly and David Krejci. The Bruins knew there would be challenges once they hit the March portion of the calendar when they played 17 games in 31 days, and now they’re smack dab in the middle of it.
“That’s just the way it is. You just have to be very smart about the way you’re handling yourself after games, and the way you’re treating off days,” said Zdeno Chara. “You have to choosy with the times that you’re practicing to make sure that you have that desperation in the games.”
Winnipeg should certainly have that desperation playing for a playoff spot with less than six weeks remaining in the regular season, and it will be up to the Black and Gold to match in a season that’s starting to gnaw away at their impressive depth. The B’s have clearly hit their “grind it out” portion of the schedule and they’ll need to do just that against a worthy Winnipeg club.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Ryan Spooner had played just over 5 minutes in his entire NHL career, but he’ll be asked to center the Bruins’ top line between Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton on Tuesday night against the Jets. That’s a tall order for the 21-year-old rookie, but he is the most similarly skilled player to the fallen David Krejci that the Bruins have within their organization. At a certain point the Bruins need to see if he can help them this season or if they need to look elsewhere for offensive help, and now is as good a time as any. It will help Spooner immensely that he’ll be playing a top six role rather than pulling third or fourth line duty as he did against Montreal last month.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “[Winnipeg] will give us the same kind of challenge that most teams will give us this time of year. They’re still in the playoff hunt for a spot. It’s pretty exciting when you’re on the outside [of the playoffs] and then you get yourself on the inside, and you start to feel it a little bit.” –Claude Julien, wary of a Winnipeg Jets team that has a little swagger heading into tonight’s game.
KEY MATCHUP: The Bruins power play is in a 6-for-24 stretch where they’ve raised their production, and continue to push their way upward in the middle third of NHL teams in the man advantage. They’re up to 19th in the NHL with a 16.7 percent success rate, but they’ll miss the playmaking of David Krejci. The Czech center led the Bruins with six power play helpers on the season, and had really begun to click with his unit on the PP. The good news: the Bruins are facing a Jets PK unit that’s 27th in the NHL and is allowing power play goals nearly 23 percent of the time this season. The Bruins scored on their only PP chance against Winnipeg in their road game at the MTS Centre last month.
STAT TO WATCH: 13 – the number of games in which the Bruins have been awarded two or fewer power plays in a game, including seven of their last nine games.
INJURIES: Chris Kelly (broken left tibia) is out for what’s expected to be most of the rest of the regular season, and David Krejci (right knee bruise) will miss Tuesday night’s game while hoping to get back on the ice soon. Winnipeg goalie Al Montoya missed Sunday's game with a lower-body injury. Defensemen Tobias Enstrom (shoulder) and Zach Redmond (leg) and forwards Anthony Peluso (hand) and Jim Slater (upper body) are on injured reserve.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask was the first off the ice at morning skate today at the MTS Centre, and is expected to get the start. Rask ranks among the league leaders in wins (14), save percentage (.928) and goals against average (1.92) and is starting to get his name brought up in Vezina Trophy consideration conversation. Ondrej Pavelec has a 2.80 goals against average and a .904 save percentage that aren’t exactly Vezina-worthy, but he had arguably his best game of the season against the Bruins earlier this year while making 26 saves in a Martin Luther King Day matinee.