Bruins/Senators preview: keeping the string of domination alive

Bruins/Senators preview: keeping the string of domination alive
March 21, 2013, 5:15 pm
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KANATA, ON -– It’s not typical sportswriting hyperbole to say the Boston Bruins own the Ottawa Senators in their own barn.

The Bruins are a solid 9-4-2 on the road this season – though that record has taken a bit of a hit on this road trip - and have won 10 straight in Ottawa at Scotiabank Place since April 7, 2009. The streak is now the longest active streak against any opponent surpassing the Anaheim Ducks, who had taken nine in a row at Rexall Place against the Edmonton Oilers.

The 10 consecutive wins matches the fifth-longest streak in NHL history against one specific team.

“Maybe we’ll have to make this our home rink?” asked Claude Julien rhetorically. “Then maybe we could take advantage of it.”

Previously it had always been about Tim Thomas dominating the Senators and getting into their heads, but now it’s about more than that as the Black and Gold find new and excruciating ways to beat down the Senators.

It got to the point that it really appeared to these eyes that Ottawa was looking to lose a late regular season game against the Bruins last season just to make certain they didn’t see them in the first round of the playoffs.

That is intimidation at its highest form.

Of course the Bruins and Sens are teams traveling in different directions right now, and Boston just barely escaped the Sens home rink with a shootout victory a month ago when Tuukka Rask stuffed Kaspars Daugavins 360 spin move to secure a victory.

“It hasn’t been easy. You saw in the last game that we needed to take a timeout to get ourselves back into the game, and it hasn’t been an easy building to play in,” said Julien. “They play well. Sometimes certain teams have issues against other teams, or a certain kind of confidence against them. We lost both of our games to Buffalo. We match up well against [Ottawa], but matching up well and winning are two very different things.”

The Bruins know they’ll need to bring their ‘A’ game to stun an Ottawa club that’s won three in a row, and will kick off of a five game home stand with the Bruins on Thursday night.

Tonight could be the night the winning streak finally dies if the Bruins don’t bring their best and most focused effort to the table against an Ottawa yearning to make a Northeast Division statement.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Extra defenseman Aaron Johnson has played just once since the end of January, but will now be looked at to pick up the slack with Adam McQuaid out for the next month with a strained shoulder. Johnson has averaged 14:40 of ice time over five games this season with a minus-2 rating, but can’t be judged by the numbers. Instead he’s simply expected to bring some defensive competitiveness and physicality to the table replacing a 6-foot-5 rough-and-tumble defenseman that always brought those attributes to the table.   
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “We’ve got to win. It’s as simple as that. We’ve got to get back to playing our game, and we haven’t been playing our best hockey the last two games. That’s why we’ve lost. There are ups and downs during the season, and you’ve got to work through it.” – Claude Julien, hoping to avoid the season’s first three-game losing streak for Boston with a win over Ottawa.  

KEY MATCHUP: One thing to watch will be the debut of Ottawa Senators tough guy Matt Kassian to the Sens/Bruins rivalry after the gargantuan fighter handily defeated Shawn Thornton when the two tangled last season while Kassian was a member of the Minnesota Wild. The Sens traded for Kassian last week for a little protection in the Eastern Conference trenches. It would appear Ottawa has decided to employ their own John Scott-style giant if the Bruins decide to raise the level of nasty that most Black and Gold fans would highly approve of. The 6-foot-5, 247-pound Kassian is a bit better of a player than Scott and has a goal in three games for the Senators, but not by much.


STAT TO WATCH: 13 – the number of points for Sergei Gonchar over the last eight games as the Russian defenseman has stepped up his game in the absence of star defenseman Erik Karlsson.  


INJURIES: Bruins forward Adam McQuaid left Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury and is out 3-4 weeks with a shoulder strain. Center David Krejci will be a game time decision with a bruised right knee, and Chris Kelly (broken tibia) is on injured reserve after suffering the injury in a collision with Chris Neil during Boston’s last game in Ottawa. Ottawa continues to field an entire team with their walking wounded as Jared Cowen (hip), Milan Michalek (knee), Erik Karlsson (Achilles), Jason Spezza (back), Craig Anderson (ankle), Dave Dziurzynski (concussion) and Mike Lundin (concussion) all out. Steady defenseman Marc Methot also left Tuesday's game with a lower-body injury and isn’t expected to play against the Bruins.


GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin left the ice almost simultaneously at the end of morning skate at Scotiabank Place, and it could be either netminder on Thursday night against the Senators. Don’t be surprised if its Khudobin after Claude Julien called out Rask for not being able to stop Grant Clitsome’s shot that led to the game-winner in the third period against Winnipeg on Tuesday night. Robin Lehner made his first start of the 2013 NHL season against theBruins a couple of weeks ago and will be making his third start of the season against Boston. He still has yet to lose in regulation in six games with a .946 save percentage and a 1.90 goals against average.