PITTSBURGH, PA - In what is being touted as "Rivalry Night" on NBC Sports Network, the Bruins and Penguins get set to face off on Wednesday night at the CONSOL Energy Center for the first time since the Eastern Conference Final.
As you well know, the Bruins swept the Pens in that series, outscoring them 9-1 in the first two games in Pittsburgh.
"I think it’s pretty obvious that this would be pegged as more of a rivalry based on last year’s situation," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, following the team's pregame skate. "I know for a fact that if you’re Pittsburgh right now with what happened last year, you certainly want to come back and make sure you play well and hopefully get some sort of revenge even if it doesn’t change the results from last year."
"So you have to look at this game here tonight – this is an important game standing-wise and I think for us, we lost our last game, didn’t like the way we played, we have again another three in four nights and it’s not going to get any easier."
The Bruins, 7-3-0 on the season (with the least games played in the NHL heading into Wednesday night), have 14 points as they go up against their conference rival.
Pittsburgh, Montreal, Tampa Bay and Toronto all rank tops in the conference with 16 points.
"We have to show that, although they’re going to be ready and want to win, we can persevere through that and play our own game and win this one," said Julien.
The "go-to" for the B's pregame thoughts, winger Daniel Paille knows well where the Pens' motivation will stem from.
"I think they’re definitely not too impressed with how things ended last year and I know that they’re struggling as of late – I think they have one win in the last four games. So for them, they want to be better and we shouldn’t expect anything less from them," he said.
"It doesn’t matter who you play, big games and especially teams like this when they do meet in the playoffs and usually the year after, those are always big games, very emotional and physical," added Captain Zdeno Chara.
From the Penguins' side, they may have bigger rivals in Washington and Philadelphia, like the B's have more heated rivalries with Montreal and Toronto, but given the postseason, this one will have some extra jump.
"The games the past couple of years have been pretty close (all one-goal games during the 2012-13 regular season), pretty exciting games so maybe they've been different in the fact that they stand out more," said Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby.
"Other than that, you know what to expect when you're playing with them. With the history there, I don't really think there should be surprises for either team."
As expected, Tuukka Rask will get the start in goal for the Bruins, making his ninth appearance this season.
Prior to the 4-3 loss to New Jersey, Rask had only allowed 10 goals against. Heading into Wednesday night, he has a 1.57 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.
After stifling the Pens' offense during the Conference Final, it will to be another test for Rask, one that he'd gladly take on.
With a back-to-back on the horizon, as the Bruins host Anaheim at TD Garden on Thursday night, Julien hasn't made plans for his goaltending situation quite yet.
"I’ve told my goalies I’m going night-by-night. I told them both this morning, we know Tuukka is in today, but I’m going to figure out who’s in the goal tomorrow after the game tonight," said the B's bench boss.
Bruins "Patience" a Focus for Pens
What is the key to defeating the Bruins? a reporter asked Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang on Wednesday morning.
"Being patient," he said. "They're a really patient team, they're going to wait for your mistakes, they won't' force anything...so we've just got to make sure we're patient."
As such, the Bruins believe that's what makes their defensive structure so successful.
"I think it’s just the way our system is kind of built. We’re patient and we feel that’s part of it, and last year we definitely got a lot of credit with the way Tuukka played and the way we played defensively," said Paille.
"It’s not too often that you can shut them down so when you can, you try to enjoy that."
There's always talk about the B's "structure" from opposing teams.
It's something that Jarome Iginla is now a part of and able to experience firsthand.
Through the Bruins' first 10 games, they've only allowed 17 goals against (with one an empty-netter), just one shy of tops in the league (Colorado, 16 GA).
"As a winger and playing against the Bruins and seeing their stats and seeing how good defensively for years they have been, you do wonder partly what it is, and now you get to see it up close," said Iginla.
"It’s great goaltendeing, the D are very strong in their own zone. You don’t spend a lot of time in your own zone because the D work very hard – you have Chara, Seids, Johnny Boychuk – the big guys, big bodies that take a lot of pride in getting the puck up as quick as they can and not spending a lot of time."
"Centers – Krech and Bergy and Kells – everyone takes a lot of pride in the defensive side. And it’s not so much about necessarily the offense or the neutral zone as much as it’s, we don’t spend a lot of time in our zone."
"So that’s the goal – it’s trying to have puck possession in the other team’s zone and on good nights we get a nice combination of that."
The Bruins will look to get the lead - and protect it - tonight, both as a team, and on the penalty kill.
The four power-play goals they allowed against New Jersey was uncharacteristic, so they're looking to gain ground on the PK amongst the league standings, while also showing a killer instinct through the full 60.
"[The Devils] just kind of skated in with no resistance and once they got in, we didn’t seem to be in sync and we didn’t clear out and they scored some goals," said Julien, of the penalty kill. "So it’s just one of those nights where it just exploded on us. So we need a good bounce back game tonight."
Iginla on the Other Side
As you already know, Jarome Iginla was on the opposing side the last time the Bruins and Penguins met. While that hyped-up part of the matchup has faded a bit, Iginla took a moment to reflect on the series and how his role has changed being on the Bruins' top line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
"It was just a tough series for the Penguins and myself included," said the winger.
"As far as styles and stuff, you try to play similar, so I’ve felt very comfortable with the Bruins and playing, go hard to the net and as a line just trying to compete hard, work hard, hit people, go to the net, create some havoc and get some down time."
"So it’s kind of simple but there’s still some nice plays in there that Krech makes, and Looch. So it’s been good; a solid start."
Boston Projected Lineup
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla
Reilly Smith-Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand
Carl Soderberg-Chris Kelly-Jordan Caron
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuck
Dennis Seidenberg-Dougie Hamilton
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Starter: Tuukka Rask
Backup: Chad Johnson
Injured: Loui Eriksson (out indefinitely, concussion)
Healthy Scratch: According to first rushes at morning skate, it appears that Matt Bartkowski will be a healthy scratch tonight (Bartkowski and Johnson also stayed on later than the rest of the B's to get in a longer workout).
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