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Behind Enemy Lines: Boston awaits a visit from the Hurricanes

The Bruins are set to host the Hurricanes for the only time this season Thursday night.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Boston Bruins Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

From one Garden to another, the Carolina Hurricanes (9-9-4) have shipped up to Boston after their defeat in Madison Square Garden Tuesday night. The big bad Boston Bruins (12-10-1) are set to host the Hurricanes Thursday night inside TD Garden. For Boston, this is the first of two meetings with the Hurricanes in December, but the only time they will host the Canes all season.

The Bruins enter tonight’s contest having dropped 4 of their last 5 games. They were defeated Tuesday night in a nine-round shootout against the Flyers in a game they largely dominated and outshot Philly 47-21. One has to think they won’t be in the best of moods going into the game tonight.

Currently, the Bruins are three points ahead of the Hurricanes in the standings and hold a three way tie with the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers at 25 points, right at the line for the last wild card spot. Over the course of 23 games so far the Bruins has a plus-2 goal differential and are the only team outside the playoffs right now that can say they are on the plus side.

Scoring has been a struggle for Boston this season, as they rank 20th in the NHL in goals for and 20th on the power play as well. The Bruins do a much better job at smothering their opponents and look to use their top five penalty kill to help do that. Truly, the Bruins and Hurricanes are not that overly different on paper.

Boston is led by Brad Marchard in scoring with 20 points and David Pastrnak at 17. Tuukka Rask continues to be stellar for the Bruins and one of the best in the NHL. He currently has a GAA of just 1.64 with a .938 save percentage, so expect him to be in net against the Canes, against whom he sports a 7-3-3 career record.

What to Watch For:

  • The Bruins announced Tuesday that former Hurricane John-Michael Liles is out of Boston’s lineup indefinitely with a concussion. With Zdeno Chara currently listed as day-to-day and having missed multiple games already, the Bruins defense may be an area of weakness for the Canes to exploit.
  • Another former Hurricane, Anton Khudobin, is back in the NHL where his career took off in Boston years ago. After spending time in Anaheim and the AHL last season, Khudobin signed a 2-year deal to return to Boston. (Could we be in for a pregame interview with the always comical jokester?)
  • The Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron line must be stopped if the Canes want to pull one out in Boston. This line plays the hard physical brand of hockey Boston is known for and will likely try to get under the Hurricanes skin.
  • This matchup means a lot in the standings, even at the start of December. Both teams badly need to win this game. Boston is coming off a string of bad losses, including one that really stung against Philadelphia, and will likely be rather angry. The Hurricanes have dropped 3 of 4 after a five game winning streak and should be quite irritable as well.