Bruins - Senators preview: Bounding out of holiday break

Bruins - Senators preview: Bounding out of holiday break
December 27, 2013, 3:15 pm
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BOSTON - The Bruins will be opening their post-holiday break the same exact way they ended going into the three days off around Christmas: scoring goals and winning at home. The Bruins put together a season-high six goals against the Nashville Predators on Monday night, and face one of the softest defenses in the league in the Ottawa Senators. Not only that, they’ll also be looking to continue a stretch of home ice dominance that hasn’t seen them lose in regulation on the TD Garden ice since Oct. 26 and has seen them reel off eight straight wins at home.

The game will also be the first of a home-and-home series against the Senators that register as all-important divisional games. Ottawa has underachieved all season long, but did blow out the Pittsburgh Penguins by a 5-0 score in their final pre-Christmas game at the end of last week.

The Bruins are first in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference by mere points with two games in hand in Pittsburgh, so they’re in a good spot three months into the season. But Claude Julien knows they can be better.

“We’ve been good. Again, ‘happy’ is a word, ‘satisfied’ is another. We’re certainly not satisfied with our play yet. We still feel there’s always untapped potential that’s still out there and we just have to keep working on getting that,” said Claude Julien. “But when you’re sitting in first in your division, it’s not a bad place to be in at Christmas.

“So we certainly can’t stand here saying we’re disappointed. It’s been a challenge at times but a challenge that we’ve overcome and done a pretty good job of staying at the top of the standings for the most part.”

The search for Boston’s next level starts tonight against the Ottawa Senators.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Jordan Caron struggled through the early portion of the preseason before picking it up in the last few games with a roster spot on the line. The 22-year-old winger had a couple of good games after carrying that effort over into the regular season, but he’s been lost for most of this season. He has just a single point, a team-worst minus-7 in limited minutes over 19 games for the Bruins, and has players passing him by in the organization’s view.  

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “That three-day break, I think, was a welcome break for every team in the league. When you see teams get that kind of time off, you normally see better hockey afterwards. It’s going to be better for the fans, it’s going to be better for the players, health-wise, injury-wise, and I think performance-wise as well.” –Claude Julien, looking to see some better hockey out of the Bruins after the three-day holiday break.

KEY MATCHUP: The Senators are 26th in goals allowed (3.1 per game) and 24th in penalty kill, and haven’t had much defensive grit or quality goaltending this season. They could be in for a rough night against a Bruins team that ranks 5th in the NHL in power play success rate, and has a PP goal in each of their games over the last three weeks. Combine that with their season-high six goals scored against the Predators earlier this week, and the Black and Gold seem primed for another offensive explosion against a soft defensive bunch from Ottawa.

STAT TO WATCH: 37 – the number of points for Erik Karlsson this season to lead all NHL defensemen, and on a hot streak with eight points in his last six games. .

INJURIES: Chris Kelly (broken fibula), Dougie Hamilton (lower body injury) and Loui Eriksson (concussion) are all out for the Bruins, and Shawn Thornton is serving out a 15-game suspension until Jan. 11. Daniel Paille is returning for the Bruins after missing seven games with post-concussion symptoms. ‘

Senators forward Mika Zibanejad (flu) was set to return Monday from an upper-body injury, but was a late scratch. Paul McLean said that Zibanejad is a game time decision vs. the Bruins.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask ended with a solid performance against the Nashville Predators prior to the holiday break, and is looking to come out of the three-day break fresh and ready for action. Rask is 19-8-2 with a 1.87 goals against average and .936 save percentage, but did look like he was in need of a small break earlier in the month of December. Interestingly, Niklas Svedberg will be serving as Rask’s backup tonight against the Senators.

Robin Lehner gets the nod despite Craig Anderson pitching a shutout against the Penguins prior to the holiday break. Lehner is 2-3-2 with a 2.11 goals against average and .943 save percentage in his career against the Bruins, and has put up some very good performances against the Black and Gold. Given Ottawa’s issues defending in their own zone, they’ll need that against the Bruins.