The battle-tested Bruins are about to begin their most difficult stretch of the season. Twelve of their next thirteen games are against teams who are either in the top-8 of their respective conference or within striking distance of a playoff spot.
Tonight’s opponent, the Calgary Flames, just happen to be the hottest team (no pun intended) in the National Hockey League. Fresh off their shootout triumph over the Penguins – a game in which former Boston College standout Johnny Gaudreau scored a highlight-reel goal for the ages – the Flames carry a franchise best 10-game winning streak into their showdown with the Black and Gold.
Of course, the Bruins have been pretty hot as well having won 11 of 14 since interim coach Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien over one month ago.
Gaudreau vs. Hart Trophy candidate Brad Marchand. The Bruins vs. Dougie Hamilton for the fourth time. Patrice Bergeron vs. Calgary’s deep depth of forwards. Wednesday’s contest at the Saddledome promises to be an entertaining one.
Gametime: 9:00 pm
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 37-26-6 (80 points), Flames 39-26-4 (82 points)
Location: Scotiabank Saddledome
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Backes
Drew Stafford-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes
Matt Beleskey-Dominic Moore-Riley Nash
Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller-Colin Miller
Flames projected lines
Matthew Tkachuk-Mikael Backlund-Michael Frolik
Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Michael Ferland
Kris Versteeg-Sam Bennett-Troy Brouwer
Lance Bouma-Matt Stajan-Alex Chiasson
Mark Giordano-Dougie Hamilton
T.J. Brodie-Derek Engelland
Matt Bartkowski-Dennis Wideman
– With the Bruins playing their first game of their back to back in the province of Alberta and Flames starter Brian Elliott coming down with the flu, tonight will feature a matchup of backup goaltenders for the second time this season. Both Anton Khudobin and former Bruin Chad Johnson provided solid goaltending the first time these two teams met the day after Thanksgiving, but Johnson and the Flames got the best of the Black and Gold on that night with a 2-1 victory. Khudobin comes in having won each of his last three starts, while Johnson will get his first nod between the pipes since making 36 saves in a winning effort against the Panthers back on February 24th.
– Having progressed in his concussion protocol over the last few days, it appears Ryan Spooner will return to his third line center spot along with Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes this evening. Prior to missing the last three games, Spooner was progressing nicely under Cassidy and provided the Bruins with some much needed secondary scoring with seven points in 11 games. Whether or not the 25-year-old returns to his spot on the first power play unit or slides into the second PP unit remains to be seen. Assuming he’s good to go, Cassidy shouldn’t hesitate with giving Spooner his deserved minutes while he shakes off the rust after a few games off.
– One of the moves that have gone a bit under the radar is the Flames’ signing of another former Bruin, Matt Bartkowski. Since signing with Calgary after starting the season in Providence, Bartkowski has been a pretty reliable compliment to the Flames’ bottom defensive pairing. Paired with another ex-B’s defenseman in Dennis Wideman, the Pittsburgh native is averaging upwards of 14-15 minutes per night, has one assist, is a plus-six has only been a minus player in one contest. Say what you want about the plus/minus statistic, but at the very least, Bartkowski is doing more good than harm for his new team.