Where: TD Garden, Boston, Mass
BOSTON – (Special Preview for Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning were both cruising along seemingly on their way to an Eastern Conference playoff spot a week ago before ill-timed losing streaks made them wonder where their next win will come. The Atlantic Division rivals each attempt to snap demoralizing three-game slides when the Bruins host the Lightning on Thursday night.
Brad Marchand (63)
Tampa Bay registered at least a point in 15 of 17 games (12-2-3) despite an injury-depleted roster, but gave up five goals apiece in its last three contests – all on home ice – and sit five points behind Boston for the second wild card spot with a game in hand. “It’s back to the drawing board,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman told reporters after Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to Arizona. “. … We can’t lay down. We can’t fold. We just have to refocus.” The Bruins went 12-3-0 in their first 15 games after Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien as coach, but allowed seven goals at Edmonton last Thursday and followed that up with losses to division foes Toronto and Ottawa to stand just two points ahead of the New York Islanders for the final playoff position. “I think at this point of the season, there’s no time to kind of feel sorry for ourselves,” Boston goalie Tuukka Rask told reporters. “We just go out there and make something happen and the results will happen. If we don’t, then it sucks, but we just have to believe that it will.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TVAS, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), NESN (Boston)
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (34-29-9): Tampa Bay won a lot of games with its power play this season, but it converted once in 11 tries over the last four games and failed on two late opportunities Tuesday. Right wing Nikita Kucherov continues to put pressure on the league leaders with three goals and an assist in the last two games to push his team-leading point total to 73 while Hedman reached 60 for the first time in his career Tuesday. Centers Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette are still likely out with lower-body injuries, but forward Vladislav Namestnikov scored in his return Tuesday.
ABOUT THE BRUINS (38-29-6): Brad Marchand was kept off the scoresheet in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Ottawa after posting 10 points (five goals) in the previous four games to push his total to a career-high 80. David Pastrnak has also cooled off, going without a point the last two contests after recording at least one in 11 straight outings, while David Krejci boasts five goals and a pair of assists in the past seven games. Four of Boston’s eight goals in the last three games came with the man advantage – two by Krejci – but the Bruins surrendered five power-play tallies in the same span.
1. Rask, who allowed 10 goals on 67 shots the last three outings after winning his 200th game, is 3-0-0 against Tampa Bay this season.
2. Tampa Bay F Jonathan Drouin, who is third on the team with 45 points, recorded nine assists but no goals in the last 12 contests.
3. The Bruins won four straight meetings – all three this season, including a 4-1 triumph in Boston on Nov. 27.