BOSTON -- If the Bruins win tonight against a Columbus Blue Jackets team that’s 2-4-1 on the road and in dead last place in the Metro Division, they’ll finish their longest homestand of the season with 9 of a possible 10 points.
If they lose, they head out onto a challenging three-game road trip against Ottawa, Carolina and the New York Rangers on a negative note, and may lose some of the momentum they’ve built up over the last week.
Columbus is not at all dynamic offensively, suspect defensively, and not getting the same kind of goaltending it received last season when Sergei Bobrovsky set the hockey world on fire. So it should be a somewhat easy two points for the Black and Gold, even if they have Chad Johnson -- still attempting to prove his NHL mettle as a backup netminder -- between the pipes.
But the trick for Boston is not thinking that way.
"If we can finish on a good note here, it will certainly send us on the road with some confidence," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "We know there's going to be some tough games coming up, another back-to-back in Carolina and New York. We need to take advantage of what we thought was important for us. That home stretch was one of those things. If we can win [Thursday], 9 out of 10 possible points is a pretty successful homestand."
The Blue Jackets blew a third-period lead to the Washington Capitals in their last game and have just one win in their last seven games, so Columbus is ripe for the taking. It’s just up to the Bruins to show up and take care of business.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Chris Kelly started out strongly this season, but has been a little quiet during the month of November with an assist and three shots on net in five games. The third line center is clearly defense-first, particularly acting as the third man in so many situations with offensive-minded guys riding alongside him in Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg. With the Bruins now rolling on a three-game winning streak it’s not as vital for Kelly to kick in offensively, but the Black and Gold can always use a little more secondary scoring.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “I watched them play their last game against Washington and obviously I go back to the game that we played against them. This is a team that I don’t want to spend too much time looking at their record more than I want to spend looking at their game; and they compete hard. They compete really hard and I thought last game they had as good a chance to win as anybody and unfortunately Washington tied it there with a few minutes left. But they played well; they’re physical, they’re aggressive, they don’t make it easy. It was the same thing in Columbus; they were hard on us and we had to really work to score goals. So I don’t anticipate anything different tonight. I think they still believe in what they’re doing and right now I think this is a team that is just looking for a few breaks here and there to turn the corner and we have to be careful that we’re not the team necessarily that gives that to them.” – Bruins coach Claude Julien, not taking anything for granted against the struggling Blue Jackets.
KEY MATCHUP: It could be a long day for a Columbus defense corps that’s a combined minus-19 for the season. Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski and Fedor Tyutin are the three D-men for Columbus, and it’s been a long season for all of them. Boston’s top two forward lines should have their way with the Blue Jackets, and it was Loui Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron that did the damage against the Columbus when they played in Ohio earlier this season.
STAT TO WATCH: 2 – the number of short-handed goals for Brandon Dubinsky this season, which is a tie for the lead in the NHL this season.
INJURIES: Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid will miss his second game with a lower body injury suffered last weekend against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blue Jackets are missing forwards Nathan Horton (shoulder surgery), Cody Bass (broken thumb), Matt Calvert (abdominal surgery) and Boone Jenner (leg) with long term injuries.
GOALTENDING MATCHUP: Chad Johnson is starting his third game of the season, and his first in 12 days after suffering the loss against the New York Islanders in a performance that was just okay. Johnson is 1-1-0 with a 2.53 goals against average and a .900 save percentage, and should get a couple of games over the next few weeks as the B’s are in a stretch of playing 10 games in 17 days. Sergei Bobrovsky is 5-8-1 with a .909 save percentage and a 2.84 goals against average in 14 games for the Blue Jackets this season, and is having a difficult time recreating last year’s Vezina Trophy winning season. It would be a distinct advantage for the Bruins if Tuukka Rask was playing, but there’s a chance the Blue Jackets can taste a little success against Johnson.