Tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was supposed to be the second this season for the Boston Bruins, but winter storm Nemo earlier this month put a huge damper on those plans. But now, the Bruins are down in sunny Florida, preparing to meet the Bolts for the first time in this campaign and to see an old familiar face again.
It will be the first time the two teams have played since Benoit Pouliot became part of the Lightning organization last summer. These days, he’s a top-six forward with five goals and eight assists in 15 games played.
The Bruins are also keenly aware of what’s going on with the Eastern Conference standings. With three games in hand and 23 points, the Montreal Canadiens have surged up to take the top spot in the Northeast Division and the conference as a whole. The Bruins have actually played the fewest games of any team in the East, 13, but still have 20 points to their name despite a less than advantageous February schedule and that one rescheduled game.
The Lightning were once leading the Southeast Division and seeded third in the conference, but have slipped out of that position and are now straddling the border of playoff contention at all. To say that the Eastern standings look a bit unusual would perhaps be an understatement.
Good news, though: all seven of the Bruins who missed practice earlier this week with flu-like symptoms traveled to the Sunshine State and participated in practices yesterday and today. Sometimes a day of rest is all it takes to get back into fighting shape. As a result, all of the forward lines look like they normally should and the third line actually exists again! Jay Pandolfo and Lane MacDermid are practicing too, though.
Tuukka Rask left the ice first at pregame skate, so expect to see him in net tonight. For Tampa Bay, newcomer Anders Lindback should be in, so it’ll be a battle of Finland vs. Sweden.
Some Bruins who have been strong against the Bolts in the past include Patrice Bergeron (six goals and 18 assists), Rich Peverley (seven goals and six assists), David Krejci (four goals and 10 assists) and Nathan Horton, whose 24 goals and 20 assists are above and beyond because he used to be on a Southeast team and saw the Lightning a lot.
The game tonight will be at 7:30 p.m. on NESN and NHL Network.