WASHINGTON – Good morning from the Verizon Center, where tonight the Bruins take on the slow-to-warm Washington Capitals, directed by star ex-Bruin center Adam Oates, a rookie NHL bench boss and the latest man to try to figure a way to get the most out of superstar Alex Ovechkin.
The Bruins are back at work after suffering a rare defeat this season, a 4-3 loss to the Canadiens on Sunday highlighted by a few old-time scraps between the two heated rivals. The Bruins will want to tighten up in their own end tonight after being uncharacteristically sloppy with the puck vs. the Habs.
The Caps, 6-4-0 in their last 10 games, are ranked 14th in the 15-team Eastern Conference. They have been a much more respectable 7-6-0 since their 1-5-1 start in January. In a short (48-game) season, a slow-out-of-the-gate start may have sunk their postseason chances.
Ex-Canadiens pivot Mike Ribeiro leads the offense for the Caps, connecting for 7-17–24 in their first 20 games.
”Not too many guys are as skilled as he is,” noted Boston coach Claude Julien, Ribeiro’s coach in Montreal for a time years ago. ”He can make a highlight-film play almost every night, he’s got such skill with the puck.”
Patrice Bergeron, like Ribeiro a Quebec kid, leads the Boston scoring chart with 5-10–15 in 19 games, tied with Tyler Seguin, who is an identical 5-10–15 in 19. The two forwards also scored at identical rates during their lockout tuneup in Switzerland. Seguin is an Ontario kid.
It’s a busy week for the Bruins. They’ll face the resurgent Leafs on Causeway Street Thursday night, then take on the Flyers there in a Saturday matinee.
Puck drop: 7:05 p.m.
Record: Bruins 14-3-2; Caps 8-11-1.
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
Danny Paille-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Jay Pandolfo-Greg Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Dougie Hamilton
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Healthy scratches: Aaron Johnson (D), Chris Bourque; Lane MacDermid
Storylines: Bourque was scratched Sunday night, but could get the call against the Caps, the franchise that gave him his pro start. If he dresses, Pandolfo likely sits, although Pandolfo played well against the Canadiens. … Rask, first goalie off the ice at the end of practice, is the likely starter in the Boston net. He was not at his sharpest against the Canadiens, and Julien likely will want him to get right back in there. … Paille’s speed gave a slight boost to the Kelly-Peverley line, which previously had Bourque working at left wing. … At some point, Julien will work Johnson into the blue-line mix. The No. 3 pairing of Ference-McQuaid struggled vs. the Habs. … Ovechkin enters with a paltry line of 8-8–15 and minus-5 through 20 games. He needs to be a goal-scoring force for the Caps to chisel their way into the playoff running. He is currently tied for 30th in the league goal-scoring race. Brad Marchand (11 goals) is tied for 11th. … At least Ovechkin is shooting. His 85 shots on net rank him T3 in the league, behind only John Tavares and Zach Parise, each with 86. … Among the 20 players with more than 200 faceoff victories this season, Patrice Bergeron holds the highest win percentage at 62.4, a few drops ahead of Phoenix’s Antoine Vermette (61.3). … Huge snowstorm headed here, expected to start approximately an hour before puck drop. Bruins are slated to charter back to Hanscom immediately after the game.,,,The refs: Francis Charron and Kevin Pollock. The linesmen: Brad Kovachik and Michel Cormier.