Friday, January 16, 2009

Bruins vs. Caps: Stuff To Look Out For

This game doesn't really need any extra hype. Boston and Washington are not only on top of the Eastern standings, they're playing the best hockey in the conference of late -- only Montreal, which beat the Caps and fell to the B's in the past week, seems to be in the same stratosphere.

From a Bruins perspective, there's a bit of nervousness about this game. The Caps trail by 11 points in the conference and have played one more game than Boston, but they're coming off a convincing win over arch-nemesis Pittsburgh. Washington dealt with some awful injury problems early in the season, but it's the Bruins who are at a disadvantage in this game. Furthermore, the teams meet again in a week so this will be a statement game for the Caps -- at just the wrong time for a Bruins team that's trying to keep the ship steady through the worst of the injury bug.

Injury report: Nothing has changed -- Milan Lucic will not play against the Caps, and Aaron Ward will be out for at least a week. The Bruins will continue to lean on AHL callups to provide depth scoring and decent defense.
Meanwhile, the Caps will be without at least two defensemen in Tom Poti and Brian Pothier. Blueliner Shaone Morrisonn is expected to play. Center Boyd Gordon will be a game-time decision.

Goaltending matchup: Fluto says to expect the Tank to make his fourth consecutive start -- perhaps the reward for his 40-save performance against the Isles last night. I suspect the Caps will hand the keys to Jose Theodore, who's started 5 of the last 6, though it wouldn't be a shock if they went with Brent Johnson who beat the Bruins last time around.

Divisional realignment: Caps fans are beginning to make serious pleas for a relocation to the Atlantic Division. They have a point -- their rivalries with the Pens and Flyers have become much more significant of late, and Ovechkin needs to be on the Madison Square Garden marquee as often as possible. Unfortunately, the Southeast Division is already so weak that it's hard to imagine a world in which they aren't buoyed by the Caps. BUT... if the Isles are indeed prepared to move westward, keep an eye on this possibility.

Home cookin': Only the Sharks and Bruins (by virtue of 1 fewer game played) have a better home record than Washington. What was once an echo chamber has become a nasty road destination, as the Bruins found out on 12/10 -- the last time they lost a road game.

Who to watch: The Wheeler-Krejci-Ryder line. Shut out against the Isles, these guys can't afford to have an off night against the Caps. Look for Julien to put them in a position to get quality chances as often as possible.

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