A couple of late nights are on tap for Bruins fans. After losing their last two games, the Bruins (22-15-7) look to rebound tonight in Anaheim, where they begin their three-game west coast swing. The Ducks are 20-19-7 on the season (47 points) and are at the bottom of the Pacific division in the Western Conference. However, the Ducks manhandled the Bruins the last time the two teams squared off, soaring to a 6-1 victory at the Garden.
The Ducks have played much better at home this season, which makes tonight’s task more difficult for the Bruins. The key for the Bruins will be to generate offense on the powerplay; which, of course, is easier said than done, particularly since generating any form of offense has been problematic for the B’s thus far. The Ducks have been shorthanded 195 times this season, 5th worst in the NHL. This has put them in an unsavory position all too often and they have been mediocre at averting disaster, killing off only 79 percent of their penalties.
The Ducks do come in to Wednesday night’s game playing solid as of late though, having won their last four games. The most recent was a 3-1 victory on Sunday over the same Chicago Blackhawks team that made the Bruins look foolish on Thursday night. Jonas Hiller has been playing sensational, only allowing six goals in that four game span, which could make this a tough one for the offensively-challenged Bruins.
On Thursday night, the Bruins will head to San Jose to face Jumbo Joe and company. The Sharks (30-10-7) are currently the best team in the NHL, a sight that we are accustomed to seeing during the regular season. Evgeni Nabakov has been his usual, stellar self while the offense has once again been powered by Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Thornton’s 60 points are good for second in the NHL, and his 49 assists is tops. Marleau’s goal scoring capability this season has been the real surprise. Marleau, a playmaker whose career high for goals in a season is 38, leads the league with 31. Those two guys, along with Dany Heatley, give opposing goaltenders nightmares. With the Bruins defense as banged up as it is, whoever gets the start in net tomorrow night for the B’s in San Jose should prepare to face a lot of shots and scoring opportunities from the explosive Sharks.
The trip will conclude on Saturday, when the Bruins faceoff with the surprising young Los Angeles Kings (25-18-3) in a 4 p.m. EST game at the Staples Center. Though they have struggled as of late, going 3-7 in their last 10 games, the Kings have the luxury of young legs as the season progresses. The Kings are currently the NHL’s youngest team, which could be the main reason for their sporadic play. Nevertheless, the team boasts five Olympians, including a solid, young goalie in Jonathan Quick, making them one of those teams that you would prefer not to play down the stretch.
The always-tough cross-country road trip comes at a tough time for the Bruins, as they are in the midst of a slump that has them 10 points behind the Buffalo Sabres for the Northeast division lead. If they cannot get things turned around quickly, the Bruins are in jeopardy of falling out of the playoff picture all-together. Their 51 points makes them tied with the New York Rangers, only two points ahead of the #7 Philadelphia Flyers, and only three points ahead of the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, and New York Islanders. With less than 50 games played on the season, it is certainly too early to start breaking down standings. However, the Bruins do need to right the ship soon and a trip across country only makes doing so more difficult. These next three games could tell us a lot about the intestinal fortitude of this Bruins team.