Pittsburgh at Boston
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
BOSTON – The Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins are each sitting in third place in their respective divisions but both are very much in the hunt for first place. The two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Penguins will be looking to avoid dropping three games in a row for the first time in 2 1/2 months when they visit the Bruins on Thursday night.Pittsburgh had its 11-game home winning streak halted in a 3-2 loss to New Jersey on Tuesday and must go forward without starting netminder Matt Murray, who sustained a concussion in Monday’s practice. The Penguins had won 16 of 20 before the back-to-back losses to Florida and New Jersey that dropped them three points behind Metropolitan-leading Washington. The Bruins, who have won four in a row at home against Pittsburgh, snapped a two-game skid with a 4-3 overtime win over Carolina on Tuesday in the opener of a six-game homestand. “I think it will be good for us because it will show us where we’re at,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said of facing the Penguins. “Kind of a measuring stick game.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet, TVAS, AT&T Sportsnet-Pittsburgh, NESN (Boston)
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (36-24-4): Center Derick Brassard, acquired from Ottawa in a three-team deal, made his Pittsburgh debut and had two shots on goal while admitting to having butterflies. “I thought Derick was pretty good,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought for his first game, he had good energy, he made some good plays. I think he’ll only get better moving forward.” Evgeni Malkin had his six-game point streak snapped Tuesday, but he scored a pair of goals and added an assist in a 6-5 OT win over Boston on Jan. 7.
ABOUT THE BRUINS (38-15-8): Newly acquired forward Rick Nash scored his first goal with Boston and has registered five shots on net in each of his first two games while blending in well with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. “Clearly, he attacks defensemen. He’s a big man, so he backs people off,” Cassidy said of Nash. “It’s going to allow Jake some room to get to the net.” With leading goal scorer and No. 1 center Patrice Bergeron out with a fractured foot, Riley Nash took his place on the top line and notched a goal and an assist.
1. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has a goal and four assists in two meetings with Boston this season.
2. Bruins G Tuukka Rask is 9-6-3 with two shuouts against Pittsburgh.
3. Penguins D Zach Aston-Reese (upper body) will be out “longer term” after he was hurt in Monday’s practice.