NHL on NBCSN: Bruins, Wild try to find their footing

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Boston Bruins host the Minnesota Wild at the TD Garden at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

It’s unlikely that many pundits picked the Boston Bruins to face the Minnesota Wild in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final – at least not against each other – yet both teams came into 2014-15 with high hopes. They’re currently hitting some bumps in the road early on, though.

For the Bruins, it’s a time of opportunities and challenges.

With Zdeno Chara on the mend for at least a month, rising defensemen Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton gain the chance to prove that the B’s future isn’t so grim without “The Big Z.” Krug, for one, told CSNNE.com that he’s eager to show that he can handle increased minutes and responsibilities.

“When your name is called you do whatever you can to help the team win. The goal is always to build trust between me and the coaching staff,” Krug said. “I think they’re definitely starting to show a little more trust in me, and it’s a challenge that I really enjoy.

“We understand that we’ve got guys in here that can play those big minutes and fill the void. A game like [the win vs. the Leafs] shows that we can do it, but it’s about everybody stepping up rather than just one or two guys.”

It’s probably accurate to say that Hamilton stepped up the most in Boston’s first post-Chara game (a 4-1 win against Toronto), scoring a goal and two assists.

Deep down, scoring has been the biggest issue for the Bruins so far in their 5-5-0 start. While Chara’s absence leaves a crater behind on defense, Claude Julien is still searching for answers, including finding the right fit for the David Krejci – Milan Lucic line.

The Wild try to pick themselves up after a tough loss

Before Monday’s third period meltdown against the New York Rangers, Darcy Kuemper only allowed more than one goal in a single period in 2014-15. The Wild’s late-game struggles spotlight the perils of assuming too much from the first few weeks of any season, as despite a massive +12 goal differential, Minnesota’s record is just 4-3-0.

Despite boasting an enviable array of offensive threats including Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu, the Wild haven’t been able to notch a single power-play goal so far this season. They’re a pitiful 0-for-24 so far, which is a number that would be even more troubling if the team hasn’t been so dominant in other areas. In these past seven games, the Wild have only allowed one power-play goal, one shorthanded tally and nine even-strength goals.

The two teams don’t have the deepest histories, yet Niklas Backstrom has been a Bruins buster.

As NHL.com notes, Backstrom is 4-0-1 with great individual stats (.969 save percentage, .98 GAA) in five career games against Boston. Considering Kuemper’s tough night and the back-to-back games, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Finn possibly face off against fellow countryman Tuukka Rask tonight. The question is: could Backstrom start to push Kuemper for reps with a strong performance?

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Considering the two teams’ recent histories, Wild – Bruins hints at a grinding, low-scoring battle … on paper. These two teams are just starting to carve out their identities in 2014-15, though.