Detroit Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader (8) is checked by Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) and goalie Tuukka Rask (40) in front of the crease in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Monday, Oct. 14, 2013. The Red Wings won 3-2. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Red Wings challenge division-leading Bruins

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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Boston Bruins will head to Joe Louis Arena to take on the Detroit Red Wings at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Red Wings are back home after a brief detour to Buffalo, but maybe it would have been better if they had stayed on the road.

They have struggled lately and a lot of that has taken place at The Joe. As a result, Detroit now has a 4-4-6 home record despite being 11-7-7 overall.

To make matters worse, Detroit will be without Pavel Datsyuk (head) and Todd Bertuzzi (shoulder) tonight. They also won’t lead with goaltender Jimmy Howard, although that’s for an entirely different reason.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $3,000 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Wednesday). It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $600. Starts at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Howard hasn’t won a game since Nov. 1 and has allowed at least three goals in six of his last eight contests.

“Let’s be clear, we’ll go as far as Howie takes us,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit News. “He’s an elite goalie who it hasn’t gone as good as he’d like to lately. We’ll give him a breather to work with Jimmy (Bedard, Red Wings goaltender coach).”

Backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson has been great lately and he’ll have to keep that up because the Boston Bruins aren’t likely to make many mistakes. The Red Wings rank in the bottom third of the league when it comes to goals per game while the Bruins lead the league with a team 1.83 GAA.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has been stunning and he’ll be backed up by one of the league’s deeper offenses. That’s nothing new for the Bruins, although the cast is different this season, including newcomers Reilly Smith, Loui Eriksson, and Jarome Iginla. All of them have stepped up at various times, along with returning stars Milan Lucic and David Krejci, but this team still has another level if they can all come together.

“Chemistry on the ice develops with time and through adversity, through tough times, through good times,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said, according to CSN New England. He added, “So I think it’s an ongoing thing, and those guys will let that evolve throughout the whole year. You just hope it’s at its best always at the right time of the year.”

As it is, they are certainly a serious contender. With a 16-6-2 record, the Bruins lead the Atlantic Division, but the Red Wings are only five points behind despite their recent slump. Detroit has plenty to overcome, but they can keep the pressure on Boston with a win tonight.

Bruins shake off Crosby’s late goal, beat Pens in OT

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Sidney Crosby sent Monday’s game into overtime with a goal in the dying seconds, but it wasn’t enough, as the Boston Bruins beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3.

This was one of those “something has to give” games.

While the Bruins’ 2013 Eastern Conference finals sweep of the Penguins loomed large in the minds of many, Pittsburgh had been dominating the regular season meetings; they came into tonight’s game 9-1 in their last 10 against Boston. The Bruins have been stout at home, lately, moving to 7-0-2 in Beantown after this win.

Torey Krug notched the overtime game-winner while Swedes Loui Eriksson (one goal, two assists) and Carl Soderberg (two helpers) continue to heat up. (One might blame Crosby for losing coverage on Krug’s OT-winner, by the way.)

The Bruins have now won two OT games in a row, improving their overall record to 16-6-2.

The Penguins are on a two-game losing streak, but at least James Neal seems like he’s back to being “The Real Deal.” He now has four consecutive multiple-point games with tonight’s two-goal, one-assist effort.

Pittsburgh continues to look up at Boston among the elite, as they finish the evening at 15-9-1.

Crosby: Pens have ‘turned the page’ after Bruins sweep

Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby, Zdeno Chara
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The two division leaders in the Eastern Conference meet tonight in Boston when the Bruins (15-6-2) host the Pittsburgh Penguins (15-9-0).

It’s the second meeting of the season between the teams; the first, on Oct. 30, was a 3-2 victory for the Pens.

“We didn’t play to our identity,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said following that defeat. “We didn’t play a heavy game for two periods tonight. We had to play three periods like we did in the third and that wasn’t the case.”

The B’s, of course, swept the Pens in last year’s playoffs, outscoring them 12-2 in the four games combined.

“I think we’ve all turned the page,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said today, per NHL.com. “It’s something that we’ll hopefully learn from. But I think we’re all moving on and making sure that we learn from it.”

Fun fact: If the Pens were in the Western Conference, they wouldn’t be in a playoff position. The Bruins would be, but only barely, based on regulation/overtime wins.

source:

Related: Seidenberg at morning skate; Rask to start (CSN New England)

Blues’ franchise-best start continues with shootout win over Bruins

St Louis Blues v Boston Bruins
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Alexander Steen didn’t score in regulation or overtime Thursday, but it didn’t matter. The St. Louis Blues won anyway.

The Blues defeated the Boston Bruins with a 3-2 shootout victory, pushing their franchise-best start to 15-3-3. That temporarily put them ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for top spot in the Central Division, however the Blackhawks won in Winnipeg not long after to jump back ahead of St. Louis.

The win for St. Louis was a milestone victory for both the team and its head coach Ken Hitchcock.

On an individual level, Hitchcock recorded 620th career win, tying Bryan Murray for eighth on the NHL’s all-time list, according to the Blues.

The Blues have also won their last six games at the TD Garden.

Steen was held off the score sheet until the second round of the shootout. His goal helped extend the deciding skills competition into the fourth round, when Derek Roy scored the winner.

“If that’s the level, that’s a pretty high level,” Hitchcock said, as per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“We got the information we needed. It was a playoff game. It was very disciplined. Both teams really respected each other. But it was really a hard game.”

Steen entered the game with 17 goals, tied with Alex Ovechkin at the top of the league.

As you’ll recall, we previewed this game earlier in the day. It was also a match-up of two very strong teams only gaining strength in their respective conferences.

The Bruins had won six of their last seven games, while the Blues have now gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

Game of the night: Blues at Bruins

Alex Steen
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If you can only watch one hockey game tonight, you probably wouldn’t go wrong picking the St. Louis Blues (14-3-3) at the Boston Bruins (14-6-1).

Both teams come into the matchup on a hot stretch. Boston’s won five of its last six; St. Louis’ entire season has been a hot stretch, really.

We’re hesitant to call this a possible Stanley Cup Final preview, given so many East-West matchups could qualify as that in today’s NHL, but it wouldn’t be untrue. And what a Final that could be — two big, tough teams that don’t mind getting their noses dirty, but also boast their share of talent.

If there’s one thing that separates this season’s Blues’ team from previous editions, it’s the ability to put the puck in the net at a high rate. St. Louis has the No. 2-ranked offense in the NHL, averaging 3.40 goals per game, and led by Alexander Steen’s 17 tallies. Last season, the Blues averaged 2.38 goals per game.

If there’s one thing that separates this season’s Bruins’ team from previous editions, it may be rookie defenseman Torey Krug, a dynamic offensive threat on the back end who has 12 points in 21 games. The 22-year-old has his issues defensively, but his offense makes up for those, according to Bruins coach Claude Julien.

“I think you just let him play,” Julien told NHL.com. “His game offensively is almost a natural part of it, so you let him do that stuff. I don’t think there’s too many times where he makes bad decisions up front. If he does, it’s going to happen once in a while. There’s always a risk and reward; you want to minimize that risk. That’s what you want to do. But right now I think he’s doing well offensively, so I’m certainly not going to take that part of his game away from him.”