BruinsLightning preview: Facing a high-powered opponent

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BruinsLightning preview: Facing a high-powered opponent

While most of the Tampa Bay Lightning roster must be wondering what they got themselves into as they watched the snow fall on Friday night, the Bolts are ready and waiting for Saturday nights Nemo" showdown at TD Garden. As of Saturday afternoon the game was still going to be played as scheduled and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was lifting the travel ban as of 4 p.m., so it appeared the stars were aligning for the Bruins and Lightning to play their Saturday game.

The Lightning started the season off piping hot and averaged more than five goals per game through the first two weeks, but the regular offense and the vaunted power play has hit the skids in three straight losses to the Devils, Rangers and Flyers. The Bruins are hoping to keep their Black and Gold thumb down on the Lightning by pressing their size and strength advantage. A victory would extend their win streak to three games against another team that looks like it will be a contender in the Eastern Conference this season, but the Guy Boucher and the Lightning have shored up their traditional weaknesses in the areas of defense and goaltending.

I dont think theres a ton of change to their system or the way they play as much as theyve just got more depth, said Claude Julien. Their goaltending has been pretty solid: Anders Lindback has been solid and theyve got a good No. 2 guy in Mathieu Garon. Theyve still got some really good players up front.

As always, stopping Tampa Bay comes down to quieting Marty St. Louis, who has 11 assists in his last seven games and is at the heart of the playmaking that powers the Lightning offense. Thats a lot easier said than done for a team that also boasts potential Calder Trophy candidate Corey Conacher along with the normal usual suspects, and is one of five Tampa Bay players also with double-digit point totals this season.

For comparisons sake the Bruins dont have one single player thats yet to crack double-digit points this year, so getting into a shootout with the Lightning isnt advisable on a snow Saturday evening in Boston.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: The entire Tampa Bay Lightning team could use a confidence booster as theyve lost three games in a row and scored less than two goals a game in the defeats at the hands of the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning power play did go 0-for-4 in the loss to the Devils on Thursday night as their offense has slowed down a bit after a blazing hot start.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: I dont think theres a ton of change to their system or the way they play as much as theyve just got more depth. Their goaltending has been pretty solid: Anders Lindback has been solid and theyve got a good No. 2 guy in Mathieu Garon. Theyve still got some really good players up front. When you look at that core group that is producing for them offensively and you add a young guy like Corey Conacherthat just adds to the danger of the goals they can score. Claude Julien, wary of a Tampa Bay team thats scored more goals than any other team in the NHL this season.

KEY MATCHUP: The Tampa Bay Lightning are averaging 4.2 goals per game and their power play is firing off at a 29.5 percent success rate that places them second in the NHL this season. Just as the first order of business against the Montreal Canadiens was pressuring Andrei Markov on the power play to hold the Habs man advantage off the board, the same will be true with neutralizing Stamkos and St. Louis on special teams. Stamkos leads the Bolts with three PP goals and eight PP points and as always keeping from firing one-timers from the face-off dot is the best way to contain Tampa Bay.

STAT TO WATCH: 42 the number of goals scored by the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, which leads the NHL and is powered by a combined 33 points from Marty St. Louis and Steve Stamkos.

INJURIES: Tampa Bay is without forward B.J. Crombeen (head), who left Tuesday's game against the Flyers after a fight with Zac Rinaldo left him down and out on the ice after a big punch to the head from Crombeen. Shawn Thornton (concussion), Dan Paille (eye) and Brad Marchand (shoulder) are all potentially available for the Bruins with Paille standing the best chance among the three forwards of playing.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask had only 20 saves against the Montreal Canadiens in a win Wednesday night, but his first period performance was the difference between a win and a loss. Mathieu Garon appears to be ready to get the call in relief of starter Anders Lindback, and has already performed well in a pair of appearances for the Lightning this season with a 2.03 goals against average and a .939 save percentage.

Saturday, Jan. 21: McKenzie on Julien's job security

Saturday, Jan. 21: McKenzie on Julien's job security

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while proud of my wife and daughter participating in today’s Women’s March.

*This is from a few days ago, but Bob McKenzie weighing in on the prospects for Claude Julien and his job security is always worth checking out.  

*The New York Rangers have themselves a rookie named Pavel that’s doing a pretty darned good job for the Blueshirts.

*What should the St. Louis Blues do with Kevin Shattenkirk as the trade deadline approaches and the seven-year, $49 million contract waiting for him in free agency is pretty daunting?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Allen has a list of underperforming NHL stars, including Jamie Benn and Jonathan Toews, that may have been impacted by the World Cup of Hockey. Certainly Patrice Bergeron could have made this list as well.

*Blackhawks backup goalie Scott Darling may be earning some more playing time after the way he performed against the Bruins, according to Pro Hockey Talk.

*Good news with Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson set to return to the team in a couple of weeks after tending to his wife in a battle against cancer.

*The struggles of Anthony Duclair with the Arizona Coyotes mirror the team’s issues this season as well. It’s interesting that Duclair has popped up in trade rumors with the Desert Dogs this season.

*For something completely different: the final Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman is going to be extremely emotional with its characters.


 

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

BRIGHTON, Mass – While both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller were missing from Bruins practice on Saturday morning, both injured Bruins defensemen could be rejoining the team soon.

Colin Miller skated on his own prior to Saturday’s team practice at Warrior Ice Arena for the second or third time since suffering a lower body injury in the win over the St. Louis Blues. Claude Julien said his presence on the ice was proof that the puck-moving defenseman is “definitely on the mend”, and could be nearing a return to practice soon with Sunday marking the sixth straight game that he’ll have missed.

Kevan Miller is out with a concussion suffered last weekend in the win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and the B’s current three-game losing streak has coincided with his absence from the lineup.

Julien said Miller has actually been away from the team for the last couple of days while dealing with a virus, and that his recovery from the concussion symptoms was good prior to being knocked down by the illness.

“Kevan was actually feeling really well and then he got hit by a virus that’s kept him in bed for the last two days,” said Julien. “It’s nothing to do with his original injury. There was a possibility he could have been ready very soon, but that’s set him back a bit.”

Both are obviously out for Sunday’s matinee against the Penguins, but a return to practice at some point next week seems like a good bet for both players. Here are the line combos and defense pairings from Saturday’s practice with the Bruins focusing on getting a good result in Pittsburgh with the hockey club on a “mom’s trip” with 22 of the players’ mothers traveling with the team to and from the game:

Marchand-Bergeron-Vatrano

Schaller-Krejci-Pastrnak

Spooner-Nash-Backes/Hayes

Blidh/Beleskey-Moore-Czarnik

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-Liles

 

Rask

McIntyre