On Friday night the Boston Bruins come to the United Center for their token visit this year, and it comes with the Hawks and Bruins sliding in opposite directions.
The Bruins have lost their last two games, both with Tim Thomas in net, and three of their last five. The two losses, at the Islanders and at home to Philadelphia, have come against teams in the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Boston, however, is in second place in the Northeast Division, just four points behind Buffalo.
Coming into Friday’s action the Bruins have been consistently inconsistent in December. They’ve converted five of 24 power plays in the month (20.8 percent), but four of those five conversions came in games after they went 0-7 against in Montreal. That game happened to be the night the Habs celebrated their 100th anniversary, and the Bruins got shelled 5-1.
Statistically speaking, the Bruins come in very similar to the Blackhawks. They don’t have one overwhelming scorer on paper, but can hit you from a number of positions. Their leading scorer, Patrice Bergeron with 24 points, doesn’t lead the team in goals or assists. Zdeno Chara, the Bruins’ enormous captain, leads the team with 17 assists, while Marco Strum leads the squad with nine goals. However, Bergeron, Marc Savard and Michael Ryder all have eight goals as well.
Thomas is the bigger name, and salary, among their goalies, but it’s been Tuukka Rask that’s been the better of the two between the pipes this year. Rusk is 9-2 with a 1.97 goals against average on the season with a sterling .932 save percentage. Odds are that the Hawks will see Rask on Friday night; he hasn’t started in eight days and has won his last two starts, while Thomas has lost his last three. Boston will play at Toronto Saturday night as well.
The Bruins, like Sunday’s opponent from Detroit, has injury concerns as well. Milan Lucic has been placed on injured reserve, and Mark Stuart suffered a broken sternum on Monday and will be out four to six weeks.
For the Blackhawks, the story has been the defense. Hawks opponents have scored only four goals in their last five games, including two consecutive shut outs. Antti Niemi will start in goal for the Hawks on Friday night, looking to continue his exceptional play in net. The Blackhawks have also allowed only one power play goal in December, killing 18 of 19 penalties in the month.
Marian Hossa has been everything the Hawks paid for since joining the team, scoring nine points (5 G, 4 A) in nine games this season. Patrick Kane had three assists on Wednesday to extend his team leading points total to 33 (10 G, 23 A). Kane leads the team in both goals and assists.
A roster move of note for the Hawks, Niklas Hjalmarsson will be a scratch on Friday night because of “general soreness.” Jordan Hendry will dress to play defense (he’s dressed as a forward the last two games he’s played), and Tomas Kopecky will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Wednesday night.