SB Nation Rival Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder
Hurricanes Record: 29-28-9 | 67 pts | 7th Metro | 13th EC
Bruins Record: 44-17-5 | 93 pts | 1st Atlantic | 1st EC
Games Remaining: 16
Minimum Points Needed: 93
Points Back: 25 (1.56 points/game)
Playoff Chances (Sports Club Stats): 4.4%
The Hurricanes are making a quick road trip to Boston today to wrap up their season series against the Bruins. The teams met twice back in November, and both times the outcome was to the Canes' detriment, a 4-1 loss in Raleigh on November 18, followed by a 3-2 overtime in Boston on November 23.
After chasing the Penguins for most of the season, a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday allowed the Bruins to climb into first place in the Eastern Conference. It was head coach Claude Julien's 300th win as head coach of the Bruins, and it continued what is now a seven-game winning streak.
The Bruins are a team without an obvious weakness, best in the league five-on-five and ranking in the top of the league statistically in all offensive and defensive categories.
They are coming off back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday, so today's matinee will be a three-in-four scenario for them. Most of the team did not practice yesterday. Forward Matt Lindblad has been called up from the AHL, and with 13 healthy forwards, this move is about evaluating depth as the Bruins prepare for the playoffs. Daniel Paille could be returning to the lineup as well, after sitting out with a concussion. He participated in a full practice yesterday and is awaiting clearance. Chad Johnson will likely be in net today for the Bruins; he was also in net for the Bruins overtime win in November which is his only prior appearance against the Canes. Tuukka Rask, who played in this week's back-to-back games, is 4-3-0 with a 2.41 GAA in his previous appearances against the Canes.
Check out Bruins Beat for more coverage after yesterday's practice [Bruins.com].
The Hurricanes are coming off two straight wins themselves, so one win streak will be broken today. According to Canes head coach Kirk Muller, the strategy will be to outpace the Bruins with speed and quick puck movement, which will require the team to come out of the gate ready to skate and keep it up for a full 60 minutes [Friday practice audio].
Justin Faulk, who has missed five games with an upper body injury, participated in a full practice yesterday and Muller said he is 'hopeful' Faulk can return to the lineup. Otherwise, don't expect too many changes from Thursday's lineup. Manny Malhotra was a healthy scratch against the Sabres but will likely draw back into the lineup, and if so, Drayson Bowman may take a turn sitting. John-Michael Liles remains sidelined with a concussion.
Cam Ward is probable in net today, making his third straight start. Ward is 12-12-3 with a 2.63 GAA and three shutouts in 27 career appearances against the Bruins. Anton Khudobin has not previously faced his former team.
After today's game, the Hurricanes will return home to face the Edmonton Oilers in another matinee tomorrow. For more on this weekend's games, check out Michael Smith's weekend preview and Amber Jaye's Rink Report.
We'll have the game thread ready to roll by 12:30 pm. See you there.