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Preview: Boston Bruins vs. Los Angeles Kings

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Preview: Boston Bruins vs. Los Angeles Kings

EL SEGUNDO, CA The Bruins have no excuses. Jet lag and time zone changes wont be acceptable, and truly they werent during an offensive no-show against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.

With the Ottawa Senators losing three straight games things have been placed on a tee for the Bs to smack the ball out of the park. If the Bruins can generate production, performance and results against the Kings on Saturday, and the Ducks on Sunday, then they can all but secure the Northeast Division for themselves.

But it wont be easy against a Los Angeles Kings squad thats won six games in a row and is coming off a playoff-style shootout win over the Blues where goaltender Jonathan Quick was brilliant.

Claude Julien is looking for something much better than what we saw in San Jose.

We never caught up to the pace of the game against San Jose. We need to bring it on the road, said Claude Julien. For whatever reason, we had some guys that didnt play well enough to let us win a hockey game. There is no way were going to win hockey games on this road trip if we dont have everybody going."

I dont like using the word desperate. We need to be a little bit more committed and determined rather than desperate. Right now the chances of making the playoffs are very good, but how do we want to be playing going into the postseason. Hopefully we want to be better.

The good news for the Bruins: Zdeno Chara has been outstanding lately and should be highly motivated playing in his 1,000th NHL game Saturday against the Kings at the Staples Center. Tim Thomas has also been great in his last three games, and was keeping the Bruins in the game against the Sharks on Thursday night when the offense couldnt get on track.

The bad news for the Bruins: Chara and Thomas arent enough if the top-six forwards dont bring more to the table than they did in the first game on the California road swing against the Sharks.

The Bruins arent looking for any passengers on the bus against the Kings, and victory should follow if they can accomplish their mission.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Bostons top six forwards didnt contribute anything offensively in Thursday nights loss to the Sharks, and Tyler Seguin, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly didnt register even a single shot on net. Claude Julien called them out the following day at practice and has continued to push Rich Peverley as a forward thats going to take somebodys place on the game day roster if theyre not playing up to par.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: What we need to do is create more offense than we did in San Jose. That didnt give us much of a chance to win if we dont create more chances than we did. Claude Julien, who wasnt impressed with his teams 17 shots on net against the Sharks. He wasnt the only one.

KEY MATCHUP: Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings defense have allowed only eight goals in their last five games, and have put up a wall of defense around the net as they push toward a playoff berth in the competitive Western Conference. Quicks goals against average dropped to 1.96 GAA with a shutout against the Blues on Thursday night, and that should be about the last a group of Bs offensive pieces need after firing off only 17 shots in a loss to the Sharks. The Bruins forward group, as a collective, needs to be better against the Kings and needs to start moving their feet to get the puck up the ice with speed. If the forwards cant do any better the results might not be any difference against a Kings team thats just as motivated.

STAT TO WATCH: 10-3 the Kings record since trading for disgruntled Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jeff Carter.

INJURIES: Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins. Peverley will take warm-ups with the team prior to Saturdays game in Los Angeles, and could play as soon as Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks. For the Los Angeles Kings Simon Gagne (concussion) and Scott Parse (hip) are not available for Saturday nights tilt against the Bruins.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tim Thomas will get the call for the Bruins, and hell be appearing in his 15th straight game for the Black and Gold including a pair of relief appearances. Thomas is 5-6 with a 3.23 goals against average and an .870 save percentage during the month of March, but looks like hes now starting back on the upswing again. Former UMass star Jonathan Quick has won five games in a row and has allowed just eight goals over that span, and made 35 saves in a shutout win over the St. Blues in his last outing Thursday night.

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

BALTIMORE — Baseball records are so precise. When to pursue them, when to value them even if minor risk is involved, is not nearly as clear cut.

The Red Sox, Chris Sale and John Farrell have stumbled upon that grey area, and it will continue to play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Sale reached a tremendous milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 14th different pitcher in major league history to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season. No one else has done it in the American League this century. Clayton Kershaw was the last to get there in the National League two years ago.

“It was really fun,” Sale said of having his family on hand. “My wife, both my boys are here, my mother-in-law. Being able to run out and get a big hug from him and my wife and everybody — it was special having them here for something like this. … I’ll spend a little time with them before we head to Cincinnati.”

Now, there’s another mark ahead of Sale: Pedro Martinez’s single-season club record of 313. And the pursuit of that record is going to highlight the discussion of what matters even more.

The tug-of-war between absolute pragmatism and personal achievement was on display Wednesday, when Farrell gave ground to the latter. 

The manager was prepared for the questions after a celebratory 9-0 win over the Orioles. His pitchers threw 26 straight scoreless innings to finish off a three-game sweep of the Orioles, and the Sox had the game well in hand the whole night.

With seven innings and 99 pitches thrown and 299 strikeouts in the books, Sale went back out for the eighth inning.

If you watched it, if you saw Sale drop a 2-2 front-door slider to a hapless Ryan Flaherty for the final strikeout Sale needed and his last pitch of the night, you surely enjoyed it. Records may not be championships, but they have their own appeal in sports that’s undeniable. 

But Sale could have recorded strikeout No. 300 next time out. Surely, he would have. He needed all 111 pitches to do so Wednesday.

In this case, the difference between 299 and 300 wound up being just 12 pitches. 

It’s doubtful those 12 pitches will ruin Sale’s postseason chances, particularly considering he was throwing hard all game, touching 99 mph. 

Nonetheless, the Sox hope to play for another month, and they've been working to get Sale extra rest. So, why risk fatigue, or worse, injury?

“The two overriding factors for me,” Farrell explained, “were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout. Gets an extra day [for five days of rest] this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out.

“We know what the final out of tonight represented, him getting the 300 strikeouts. Was aware of that, and you know what, felt like he was in complete command of this game and the ability to go out and give that opportunity, he recorded it.”

If Sale makes his final two starts of the year, he’ll break Martinez's record of 313. At least, Sale should. But he might not make his projected final start, in Game No. 162, so that he’s set up for Game 1 in the Division Series.

(So, if he could do reach 314 Ks in his next start, he’d make this discussion disappear — but 14 Ks in one outing is not easy.)

When should exceptions be made to let someone get to a record? Where do you draw the line? 

Would it be reasonable to get Sale an inning or two against the Astros in Game 162 if he was a few strikeouts away, even though he may face the Astros in the Division Series?

Letting the Astros get extra looks against Sale is a different matter than Sale throwing 12 extra pitches. But neither is really a guarantee of doom. They're small risks, of varying size.

Consider that if Sale is on, he should rough up the Astros no matter what.

What's 12 pitches Wednesday for a guy who leads the majors in average pitches thrown per game? Not enough to keep Farrell from letting Sale have a go at one milestone.

Will the Sox work to put Sale in position for the next?

Records don’t usually fall into such a grey area. Outside of the steroid era, anyway.