For the first time since Game 6 of last year’s Stanley Cup Final, the Blackhawks will visit the TD Garden to play the Bruins (NESN, 7 p.m.) on the very ice upon which Chicago paraded in celebration of winning Lord Stanley’s Cup last June.
“Probably brings some good memories to them,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who watched the Blackhawks score two late goals, 17 seconds apart, to rally for the 3-2, game-clinching win on June 23. “At least this time they’re not going to wreck our visiting locker room, I hope.”
The bad memories from a Boston perspective are tempered by the fact that the Bruins have gained points in 13 straight games, after having their 12-game winning streak snapped Monday night by the Montreal Canadiens. With 104 points, the Bruins are one point shy of the St. Louis Blues for the most in the NHL. Chicago is currently six points behind the Blues in the Western Conference, but unlike Boston or St. Louis, has yet to clinch a playoff spot.
The last time the two teams met, Brad Marchand scored twice, but the Blackhawks won, 3-2, in a shootout on Jan. 19 in Chicago. Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, who scored the shootout game-winner, will not be available Thursday night, sidelined with a knee injury.
Since that game, Boston has won 19 of its last 24 games. Chicago has lost 12 of its next 22.
By beating the Blackhawks Thursday, coupled with Lightning loss, the Bruins can assure themselves of one of the top two playoff seeds in the East.
“Nobody in the dressing room is going to forget that we played them in the Finals last year,” coach Claude Julien said. “No one is going to forget any of that, but I think [Thursday] is not about remembering that, more than knowing it’s going to be a good game between two good teams, and we should look forward to it.”