PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Reilly Smith has gone without a goal in 10 straight games after scoring in three straight, and has just seven shots on net in the first five games since returning from the Olympic break. It’s about time for the top-six winger to get things going again with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and snap out of a little bit of an offensive funk.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “It doesn’t get much tougher than Boston coming in. They’ve had our number lately. They’re extremely physical defensive team that can pounce on any mistakes that you make. This is a true character test for our team right now.” –Steve Stamkos to the Tampa Bay Times.
KEY MATCHUP: It’ll be a whole lot of defensive attention toward Steven Stamkos now that he’s back with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Marty St. Louis has moved on to the New York Rangers. That means Stamkos will get a steady dose of Zdeno Chara at all times when he used to be split up between the offensive superstars in years past. It’ll be interesting to see how the Lightning attack changes with Ryan Callahan there instead of St. Louis.
STAT TO WATCH: .988 – the save percentage for Tuukka Rask in three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning this season that includes a pair of shutouts.
INJURIES: Boston has shut down defenseman Adam McQuaid (strained quad) for the next several weeks after he had a setback in his recovery, and hasn’t played an NHL game since Jan. 19. Dennis Seidenberg is out for the season with a right knee injury that required surgery.
Tampa Bay defenseman Radko Gudas (lower body) will miss a third straight game on Saturday night, but is making progress according to Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: The Bruins held an optional skate on Saturday morning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and Tuukka Rask wasn’t on the ice for the skating session. So there’s a question mark as to which goalie will be in net for the Black and Gold. Conventional thinking would have Rask starting this game vs. the Lightning given their place in the standings, and the .988 save percentage and 0.33 goals against average in three games against Tampa Bay this season.
One would expect Ben Bishop to start the game vs. the Bruins after Anders Lindback started two of the first three games against Boston this season, and came up a loser in both instances. Bishop is 29-11-4 with a 2.07 goals against average and a .931 save percentage this season for the Bolts.