Twenty-seven games remain for the Boston Bruins, but their tests are about to get a little tougher as the Feb. 26 Trade Deadline approaches. Entering Saturday trailing the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning by three points, the Black and Gold begin their five-game road trip Saturday night against an improved, but still rebuilding Canucks squad.
Unlike their 6-3 win over the Canucks in October, the Bruins come in with a much-different looking roster. Tuukka Rask and Ryan Spooner both missed the last meeting due to injury, while Vancouver native Danton Heinen was still in Providence. All three will be in their usual roles in the second go-around.
Kevan Miller will miss another game due to an upper-body injury but could return against the Flames (Monday) or Oilers (Tuesday).
A lot has changed since that October meeting, and the Bruins are well on their way toward clinching another playoff berth. Brock Boeser and the Canucks, meanwhile, will use the next week to add more prospects and draft picks with an eye toward the future.
Gametime: 10 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 35-12-8 (78 points), Canucks 22-30-6 (50 points)
Location: Rogers Arena
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Ryan Spooner
Danton Heinen-Riley Nash-David Backes
Tim Schaller-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug-Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk-Adam McQuaid
Canucks projected lines
Sven Baertschi-Bo Horvat-Brock Boeser
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Thomas Vanek
Darren Archibald-Brandon Sutter-Loui Eriksson
Nikolay Goldobin-Nic Dowd-Jake Virtanen
Alex Edler-Erik Gudbrandson
Michael Del Zotto-Troy Stecher
Ben Hutton-Derek Pouliot
– Former Bruins assistant general manager and current Canucks GM Jim Benning will likely be sending some of his veterans elsewhere over the next nine days. One name worth watching, in particular, is perennial Bruins killer Thomas Vanek. The 34-year-old has 67 career points in 62 career games against the Black and Gold — the most against any team during his 13-year career.
– Vanek is having one of his more productive seasons since leaving Buffalo as he sits third on the Canucks with 39 points (16 goals, 23 assists). The former Minnesota standout would be a decent short-term plug for a top-six or top-nine role in Boston, and at the very least, wouldn’t haunt the Bruins if Don Sweeney has an interest.
– David Backes and David Pastrnak are back at their usual third and first line spots after Bruce Cassidy pulled the switch in the first period of the B’s 5-2 win over the Flames Tuesday night at TD Garden. The switch wasn’t so much of Pastrnak being in Cassidy’s dog house, but rather a reminder for the talented fourth-year forward. The crafty playmaker, who took an ill-timed penalty in the first that forced Cassidy’s hand, gets caught at times looking for the perfect play and not keeping things simple. Pastrnak carries a three-game scoring drought to Vancouver and would like nothing more to end that skid while responding to Cassidy’s message four nights later.
– Finally, a melancholy goodbye to the Boston Herald’s Steve Harris, who passed away two nights ago after a long battle with illness. For four decades, Harris provided Bruins fans with a great inside look of the day-to-day surroundings of the Black and Gold in a timely, professional and nonchalant matter. Steve Conroy wrote a touching tribute to his late colleague and captures Harris’ personal and professional life perfectly. Our thoughts and prayers are with Harris’ family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.