The Bruins, after locking up first place in the Eastern Conference on Sunday, are back to work this morning at the Ristuccia Center.
Still unknown: Boston’s first-round opponent in the Stanley Cup playoffs, which most likely will begin on Causeway Street a week from Thursday (schedule not to be finalized until the identity of the first-round opponent is known).
A lot could change in the standings over this last week of the regular-season, but Boston’s most likely Round 1 matchup will be either the Rangers or Panthers, both of whom have 89 points through 79 games in this morning’s standings. If the post-season began today, the Blueshirts, 1-0 losers on Causeway ice Saturday, would get the nod because they have one more win (40) than the Sunrise citizens.
The Rangers have games remaining with the Canadiens (tomorrow at MSG) and the Flyers (Thurs. at MSG and Sun. afternoon at Philly).
The Panthers, who last qualified for the playoffs in 2000, are in Philly tomorrow night and Atlanta on Thursday. They wrap up the regular season in Sunrise on Sat. against the Caps.
The Sabres, with a game in hand over the Rangers and Panthers, are also four points (85) in arrears in the standings. They’re on home ice tonight against the struggling Red Wings, then play in Toronto on Wed. and in Carolina on Thursday. They wrap up on Sat. with the Bruins visiting HSBC Arena (a 4 p.m. start).
Meanwhile, the Bruins have the next week and half to tidy up their schedule–tomorrow night in Ottawa, vs. the Habs here on Thursday, followed by a weekend in Buffalo and Long Island.
We hope to have an update later this morning on the injured likes of Phil Kessel, Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ward and Aaron Ference, the latter of whom was unable to play the third period of the win over the Rangers. Coach Claude Julien said after the game that he would report soon whether Ference’s status could be considered ”day-to-day” or ”week-to-week.”
It’s a good bet that Julien will split this week’s workload between goalies Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez. Thomas likely would get the starts against potential playoff partners Montreal and Buffalo, while Fernandez proabably will get the nods over also-rans Ottawa and Long Island.