Blues face Bruins in battle of seven-win teams
BLUES (7-1-2) at BRUINS (7-3-0)
TV: FS-MW (HD), NESN (HD)
This is the only meeting of the 2010-11 season between these teams. They last met in St. Louis on Nov. 23, 2009, and Boston claimed a 4-2 victory behind power-play goals from Mark Recchi
and Blake Wheeler
and a shorthanded goal by Marco Sturm
. Milan Lucic
also scored and Tuukka Rask
stopped 29 shots.
A cross-conference matchup that might not have garnered much attention when the schedules for this season were released, it brings some added juice to a busy Saturday night by pitting two seven-win teams against one another. St. Louis and Boston have played the fewest games of any NHL team, but they're both battling for their respective division leads thanks to strong starts.
Who knows what kind of impact Lars Eller and Ian Schultz might one day have in the League, but Jaroslav Halak has been everything St. Louis could have hoped for and more over the first month of the season. The Blues gave up a couple blue-chip prospects in Eller and Schultz to acquire Halak from the Canadiens after his stellar playoff run last spring, and he's spearheaded their current five-game winning streak with three shutouts in his last four starts, including a 25-save effort in a 2-0 win over the Sharks on Thursday.
"I thought he was really good, especially on the mistakes we made and the breaks that they had," coach Davis Payne told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He made a couple of saves on breakaways and forced them to go over the net. … It's huge; it allows us to get our feet back underneath us and get going the other way."
After winning his first seven starts while giving up an average of less than one goal per game, Tim Thomas
finally proved human Friday night in Washington, giving up three goals in the second period and getting pulled to start the third. But Boston rallied to tie the game and take Thomas off the hook. The Bruins couldn't come up with the go-ahead goal, however, falling 5-3 to the Capitals as their three-game winning streak ended.
"When you play 20 minutes of a 60-minute game the way you should, you're not going to win too many of those," coach Claude Julien said. "It took us a while to figure out what we had to do there, even though I thought the plan was pretty clear."
Matt D'Agostini continues to be a pleasant surprise for the Blues, with 2 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak. His 5 goals tie him with David Perron for the team lead. … Lucic and Patrice Bergeron
each have 2 goals and 2 assists during four-game points streaks for the Bruins. Michael Ryder
has goals in consecutive games.
St. Louis is hurting on the blue line, with regulars Barret Jackman (sprained knee), Carlo Colaiacovo (concussion) and Roman Polak (wrist surgery) all on injured reserve. … Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk
is expected to miss another several weeks with a broken forearm, while Sturm (knee surgery) and fellow forwards Marc Savard
(post-concussion symptoms) and Trent Whitfield
(Achilles surgery) are on injured reserve.
Halak and Thomas are tied for the League lead in shutouts with three apiece and second in wins with seven each. After the Capitals got to him a bit on Friday, Thomas dropped to second in save percentage (.967) and third in goals-against average (1.05), with Halak (1.53) right behind him.
Rask, last season's GAA leader, is 0-3-0 with a 3.48 GAA and .899 save percentage after taking the loss in relief on Friday. He could be in line for just his third start of the season with Saturday's game representing Boston's third in four nights. A matchup between Thomas and Halak would be an intriguing one, however.