PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Reilly Smith has just a goal and three points along with 25 shots on net in 15 games during the month of March, and could really use a hot streak at the tail end of the season headed into the playoffs. Claude Julien didn’t wholly dismiss the notion of taking a look at Loui Eriksson with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in these last few regular season games just in case Smith doesn’t pull out of the doldrums he’s been in.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “You never know. [Washington as a possible playoff foe] is one of the things that keeps us on our toes right now. There’s a reason behind our games until the end right now, from our opportunity to finish at the top of the league to the opportunity to play these guys [in the playoffs].” –Claude Julien on a potential first round matchup against the Washington Capitals.
KEY MATCHUP: It’ll be up to a Bruins penalty kill (now back amongst the NHL’s top 10 at the eighth spot killing off 83.8 percent of the PP’s they see) against the NHL’s top-ranked Washington Capitals power play that’s done a nice job of finding Alex Ovechkin in places where he can do damage. Ovechkin scored two power play goals in a shootout loss to the LA Kings earlier this week to tie the Capitals team record with 22 power play goals, set by Peter Bondra in 2000-01. It will be up to the Bruins to show the discipline to keep the Capitals off the power play, and potentially shut them down when/if they do get on the man advantage.
STAT TO WATCH: 51-19 – the gap by which the Bruins have outscored their opponents in the last 14 games while picking up a point in each of them.
INJURIES: Washington defenseman Jack Hillen (upper body), who collided with Alex Ovechkin in overtime on Tuesday, and Nick Backstrom (upper body), are both probable for Saturday’s game. Forward Brooks Laich (groin surgery) is out for the Capitals.
Adam McQuaid (strained quad) continues to be out of the lineup after being shut down at the end of February, but has been getting ramped up off the ice for one last shot at a return. Dennis Seidenberg is out for the season with a torn right ACL/MCL, but the Bruins haven’t ruled him out from a possible return late in the playoffs.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Chad Johnson will get the nod for the Boston Bruins with a 16-3-1 record along with a 2.04 goals against average and .925 save percentage, and has been excellent down the stretch for Boston. Johnson is 5-0-0 with a 1.20 goals against average and .954 save percentage in five starts during the month of March.
Jaroslav Halak is with the Washington Capitals now, but it will be Braden Holtby getting the nod for the Caps against a Bruins team he always seems to play well against. Holtby is 20-14-3 with a 2.95 goals against average and .912 save percentage, numbers that spurred George McPhee on to trade for another NHL goalie at the trade deadline. But he’s also 4-1-0 with a 2.13 goals against average and .940 save percentage against the Black and Gold, not including his sterling work against Boston in the playoffs two years ago.