By Amanda DiPaolo
Boston Bruins 39-21-9
Nashville Predators 35-25-10
The Boston Bruins hold the best road record in the Eastern Conference and are tied with Detroit for most wins on the road in the entire League. The Bruins make their way to Bridgestone Arena Thursday night for what seems like a must-win game for the Predators.
Boston sits in third place in the Eastern Conference and ended a four-game slide on Tuesday night when the Bruins slipped past Columbus 3-2 in a shootout.
Nashville is coming off a 4-2 loss against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. After a dominating first 10 minutes of the game, Nashville constantly played catch-up with the Kings and were unable to find the equalizer late in the third, setting up conditions for Dustin Brown’s empty net goal.
Against the Kings, Nashville got some offense from unlikely sources. Jon Blum scored his second goal since being called up to Nashville. The second tally originated from Cody Franson’s shot from the point that was tipped in front by JP Dumont, Nashville’s usual healthy scratch as of late. With Joel Ward out of the lineup with a lower body injury, it gave Dumont the chance to play, and play well.
Dumont found out he was playing Tuesday while he was driving to the rink.
“It’s one of those things where you are caught by surprise. Your heartbeat goes up right away. I was just ready to go. It’s too bad that we lost the game tonight, but I always have to keep myself ready,” Dumont said.
If Ward isn’t ready to go Thursday, expect Dumont back in the lineup again. If Ward is good to go, Head Coach Barry Trotz has some tough decisions to make. With several slumping players in the lineup, it is possible Trotz would keep Dumont in the lineup after his performance on Tuesday and sit one of the several struggling forwards.
The Predators are still looking for Mike Fisher, Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn to step up. With the offense as of late coming off the sticks of Ward, Martin Erat, David Legwand and the Predators defensive squad, a team that depends on scoring by committee doesn’t have all committee members fully on board.
“Obviously, we didn’t play as good as we can,” Ryan Suter said about Tuesday’s loss. ”If we are going to be successful it is going to take everybody pulling on the rope. We didn’t have that tonight. Some guys were in and some guys weren’t.” Suter said the Predators would have a good practice on Wednesday and be ready for another top team Thursday night.
Hockey fans around the NHL are hoping to see a goaltending exhibition between two of the top netminders and contenders to be nominated for the Vezina Trophy. Tim Thomas leads the League in goals against average at 2.03 as well as save percentage with .938, but Rinne is a close second. Rinne boasts a save percentage of .929 and has a 2.09 goals against average.
Rinne has made 18 consecutive starts for Nashville and there is no indication that he won’t start his 19th game in a row Thursday night, with the Predators desperately fighting for a post-season berth.
The Bruins are a relatively healthy squad in comparison to Nashville but may be without Brad Marchand who has 35 points in 60 games. Marchand has a disciplinary hearing with the League Thursday morning at 9a.m. The hearing is the result of a head shot on Blue Jackets’ R.J. Umberger during Boston’s shootout win in Columbus Tuesday night.
Marc Savard suffered yet another concussion in January and is done for the season. Trent Whitfield had achilles surgery before the season started and hasn’t played. Shane Hnidy and Andrew Ference both suffered injuries at the end of February. Hnidy is on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Ference was supposed to miss two weeks with a knee injury and could be back to the lineup in the near future for Boston.
The status of Joel Ward is not yet known. The other Predator injuries remain to be Matthew Lombardi, Steve Sullivan, Cal O’Reilly, Marcel Goc, and Francis Bouillon.
Lots of upper bowl seats remain for Thursday night’s contest. It is student night. Upper-level seats are only $10 with a valid student ID. The Predators will wear St. Patrick Day green jerseys during warmups that will be auctioned off during the game. Game time is 7 pm.
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