Haggerty's Bruins-Senators preview

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Haggerty's Bruins-Senators preview

KANATA, ON The Bruins made their statements about Thursday nights game when they left Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas back in Boston rather than place their key players in the final road game of the season. Boston has earned the right to fully prepare for the playoffs by capturing the No. 2 seed, and now theyre setting everything into motion.

The aim is to get everyone in a Black and Gold uniform well-rested and healthy for the seemingly inevitable first round matchup between Boston and Ottawa, and that includes making it through Thursday night healthy. Ottawa needs one more point to lock up the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and they also will certainly be looking to make a statement against a Bruins team thats dominated while taking four out of five against them this season.

If we take the approach to the playoffs that teams will roll over then wed be in some big trouble," said Kelly. "The regular season is the regular season, and the playoffs are a whole different beast. Youve seen it in the past where a team has done extremely well against a team during the regular season, and then it goes the other way during the playoffs. The regular season gets thrown out the window after Saturday.

The Senators will be looking to ride the momentum of their last win, a tight 1-0 affair, over the Bruins at TD Garden, and harness the kind of effort and intensity they showed in the final period played at Scotiabank Place. Thats when Chris Neil trucked Johnny Boychuk with one of the hardest hockey hits seen anywhere this season, and Kyle Turris threw a very questionable hit at Joe Corvo.

It wouldnt shock or stun to see any of that coming from an underdog Sens team that wants to be taken seriously, or from a Bruins team thats just looking to get out of Ottawa with their roster entirely intact.

Its important to stay sharp. You dont want your intensity to drop because its tough to turn it on once its been shut off, said Mike Mottau. We want to play well structurally and play strong. Thats the best way to end the season feeling about where our game is going. You can send a message by simply imposing your will and playing with strength in a game like this.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Apparently somebody needs to start doing some PR work for Mike Mottau so he can earn himself a proper spot in Bostons lineup headed into the playoffs. The local hockey standout has been rock-steady since arriving in Boston from the Islanders organization, and should have a place at the table for the playoffs with injuries beginning to erode Bostons defensemen depth. Mottau will get another chance to state his playoff case Thursday night against Ottawa, and has formed together with Greg Zanon nicely as a defensemen duo.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Its not a playoff preview because theres nothing confirmed yet. The one thing I can tell you is that you dont win in this league by simply showing up. We dont talk about speculation. I wont get into it until its confirmed. Im not wasting my time worrying about that until its confirmed. Claude Julien didnt want to answer any questions about Thursday night as a potential playoff preview between the Bruins and Senators.

KEY MATCHUP: Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza have combined for 11 points in nine games against the Bruins this season, and will be the deadly offensive duo in any playoff series. Normally it would be Zdeno Charas job to shut down Ottawas top line, but now that will likely fall to Dennis Seidenberg and a defenseman to be named later. Watching Anton Khudobin face an NHL lineup for the first time in a couple of years should be enlightening when starting to formulate some postseason ideas.

STAT TO WATCH: 1 the number of NHL fights for Lane MacDermid after tangling with Mike Rupp of the New York Rangers earlier this season. Theres a good possibility Chris Neil could come calling tonight.

INJURIES: Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins, but Rask hit the ice Wednesday with an eye toward returning for the playoffs. Johnny Boychuk is out with a mildly sprained left knee. Adam McQuaid has missed three games with a left laceration, but skated in pregame warm-ups at Scotiabank Place. The Ottawa Senators appear relatively healthy at this point in time.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Anton Khudobin will be making his first NHL appearance with the Boston Bruins in his second season of duty with the Black and Gold. Khudobin is a 25-year-old native of Kazakhstan that has settled in as the No. 3 goaltender on the organizational depth chart, and many within the Bs organization feel hes a late-blooming, puck-stopping talent. He may be in line for the backup role for the playoffs if Tuukka Rask isnt ready to play. Ben Bishop will be getting the start for the Senators and the 6-foot-7 goaltender is hoping to show the Ottawa coaching staff that his lingering groin issues have abated just in time for the postseason.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Rockets

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Rockets

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Rockets in Houston. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: Get ready for 3-point showdown

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

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- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford

Celtics-Rockets preview: Get ready for 3-point showdown

Celtics-Rockets preview: Get ready for 3-point showdown

Earlier this month the Boston Celtics took a season-high 42 three-pointers in a game which raised a few eyebrows. 

And you know what?

No one would be surprised if the Celtics (12-8) surpassed that total tonight when they face the Houston Rockets who have set the pace when it comes to launching 3-point bombs in the NBA this season with 37.0 attempts per game. 

The Celtics aren’t too far behind, averaging 30.8 three-pointers which ranks fifth in the NBA.

But what makes these two teams so unique is that in addition to taking a lot of 3s, they also rank among the NBA’s leaders when it comes to knocking them down. 

The Rockets (13-7) make an NBA-high 14.0 three-pointers per game while the Celtics are fifth in the league with 11.1 made 3s per game. 

And the key to that stat is that both teams shoot a surprisingly high percentage from 3-point range as well. 

Houston’s 37.8 percent from 3-point range is the fifth-best mark in the NBA while the Celtics shoot 36.0 percent on 3's which ranks 10th in the league. 

So what does all this 3-ball shooting mean? 

It means get your popcorn ready for what should be one of the more exciting, high-scoring games on the Boston Celtics’ schedule this season.

Here are some other key stats to keep tabs on during tonight’s game. 

 

FIRST QUARTER SCORING

There is no team in the NBA better at jumping on you from the outset, then Houston. They lead the NBA in first-quarter scoring with 31.2 points per game while shooting 51.9 percent in the quarter which is also tops in the NBA. But there’s a downside to their first quarter success. Houston’s first quarter defense is pretty bad, ranking 27th in the league in first-quarter points allowed (28.5) while allowing teams to shoot a league-worst 52.3 percent from the field in the game’s first 12 minutes. 

 

FOURTH QUARTER SCORING

As impressive as Houston is to start games, the Boston Celtics are just as dominant offensively in the fourth quarter. Boston averages a league-best 29.1 points per game in the fourth compared to the Rockets whose 24.4 points in the fourth ranks 21st in the NBA. Boston’s strong finish to games is aided by a defense that seems to save its best work for the fourth quarter. Opponents are shooting just 40.6 percent against the Celtics in the fourth which ranks as the third-best fourth quarter defense in the NBA.

 

OFFENSIVE REBOUND PERCENTAGE

Boston’s struggles on the boards are well documented which includes - but is certainly not limited to - offensive rebounding. The Rockets will present a major problem to Boston when it comes to trying to avoid Houston getting second and third-shot opportunities. The Rockets rank fifth in the NBA in second-chance points (15.3) per game while the Celtics’ defense allows 15.2 second-chance points which ranks 27th in the league. And Boston’s offensive rebounding percentage for opponents ranks dead-last in the NBA at .265.

 

BALL MOVEMENT

Both teams rank among the league leaders in assists per game with Boston’s 24.4 assists per game average No. 2 in the NBA and Houston’s 24.3 assists ranks fourth. But more telling is how the Celtics rely more heavily on keeping the ball moving, more so than the Rockets. You see this in Boston averaging 329.2 passes per game which ranks third in the NBA while the Rockets’ 273.5 passes per game average is 29th in the league. Still, Houston’s passing game is to be respected especially when you consider the lofty assists numbers they’ve racked up in addition to them getting 59.2 points created via the assist according to nba.com/stats

 

TURNOVERS

These two are at opposite ends of the basketball world when it comes to turnovers. Boston commits 12.3 per game which is the fourth-fewest committed in the NBA while the Rockets are turning the ball over 16.1 times per game and that ranks 27th in the league. And these two remain widely far apart in the fourth quarter which is when the Celtics turn the ball over a league-low 2.2 times per game in the fourth while Houston turns the ball more than twice as much (4.5) which ranks 29th in the league.