PITTSBURGH — Good morning from the Consol Energy Center, home of the Penguins, where tonight the Bruins have a chance to pull within one point of the Eastern Conference leaders.
The Penguins, with Sidney Crosby back in the lineup the last two weeks after being sidelined some 10 months due to a concussion, lead the East with 36 points. The Bruins, on a 13-0-1 roll and the NHL’s hottest club, have 33 points. The Bruins and LA Kings are tied for the fewest number (2) of regulation losses on the road this season.
The Bruins chewed up the Maple Leafs, 4-1, at the Garden on Saturday night with Tuukka Rask in net. Tim Thomas is expected to get the start here tonight, with Rask getting called again tomorrow night when the Bruins will play in Winnipeg for the first time since the 1995-’96 season. The Bruins are back on Causeway Thursday night when the red hot Florida Panthers visit the Hub of Hockey.
Puck drop: 7:05 p.m. EST
Record: Bruins, 16-7-1; Penguins, 16-7-4.
TV/radio info: NESN (Jack Edwards, Andy Brickley, Naoko Funayama), 98.5 The Sports Hub (Dave Goucher, Bob Beers)
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Healthy scratches: Jordan Caron, Steve Kampfer
Storylines: Crosby scored a pair of goals in his first game back since January of this year, but has not found the back of the net since. He enters tonight’s action with a line of 2-10–12 in 7 games. Even with only 55 games left in the season, Crosby could win his second league scoring title if he could keep up that 1.714 point-per-game scoring pace….Look for Marc-Andre Fleury (14-4-2) to oppose Thomas. …Ex Dallas Star James Neal leads all Penguins scorers with 14 goals and 25 points. He came here in February with Matt Niskanen in the trade that sent Alex Goligoski to the Stars. He is scoring well ahead of the pace that brought him a career-high 27 goals in 2009-’10 with the Stars…With the league discussing realignment today and tomorrow, during Board of Governors meetings in Pebble Beach, Calif., the Penguins are eager to maintain their divisional tie to the cross-state rival Flyers…With the Bruins holding a league-best plus-34 goal differential, they have five players–Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara, Chris Kelly, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron–holding the league’s top five spots for individual plus-minus. The quintet is a collective a plus-85….Seguin still leads the club in scoring with 24 points, followed by Milan Lucic (20) and Marchand (19)….Neal is tied with Anaheim’s Corey Perry with a league-leading seven power-play goals…Fleury, with 14 wins, is only one victory shy of Detroit’s Jimmy Howard (15) for the league lead…After Saturday night’s game in Columbus, the Bruns play only seven games over a 24-day stretch extending across the first three days of January. Conversely, beginning Jan. 4, they’ll play 10 times over 17 days….Given how hot they’ve been, it could be a struggle to keep their game tuned and taut during that extra-light 24-day stretch.