After falling shy of having a chance to match the longest win streak in franchise history, the Boston Bruins won’t be lacking in motivation in their next game.
The Chicago Blackhawks will make their first visit to Boston since winning the Stanley Cup in this matchup of NHL powerhouses Thursday night.
Boston (49-17-6) had its 12-game win streak end Monday with a 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal. The Bruins fell one game short of their longest winning streak since 1970-71 and two shy of the club record set in 1929-30.
"It didn’t really feel like a win streak," defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. "It was more as taking it as the next game that we had to focus in and do our jobs."
The Bruins still haven’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat to Washington on March 1, and their fans will no doubt be jeering the defending champion Blackhawks (42-16-15).
Chicago took the final three games against Boston in last year’s finals, winning 3-2 in Game 6 on the road on goals by Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland 17 seconds apart in the final 1:16 of the series. Ironically, neither of those skaters will likely play Thursday. Bickell has missed three straight games with an upper-body injury while Bolland was traded to Toronto in the offseason.
"Nobody in the dressing room is going to forget that we played them in the finals last year," coach Claude Julien told the Bruins’ official website Wednesday. "No one is going to forget any of that, but I think tomorrow is not about remembering that, more than knowing it’s going to be a good game between two good teams, and we should look forward to it."
The Bruins have 104 points for a seven-point lead over Pittsburgh for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Blackhawks have more at stake with 99 points in the crowded West. They are in second place in the Central Division, six points behind St. Louis and three ahead of Colorado after all three teams won Tuesday.
"I think everybody’s got motivation down the stretch and we’d like to push ahead," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Colorado just won so that’ll keep our attention for sure."
Patrick Kane converted the winner in the shootout as Chicago won 3-2 at home over Boston on Jan. 19. Kane, tied with Bolland for the team lead with three goals in last year’s finals, is out with a lower-body injury.
Boston will get its first look at 19-year-old Chicago rookie winger Teuvo Teravainen, who made his NHL debut in Tuesday’s 4-2 home win over Dallas.
"He’s a heckuva player, you can see his high hockey I.Q. and the plays that he made tonight and he’s going to be a good player in this league for a long time," teammate Kris Versteeg said.
Corey Crawford made 25 saves to improve to 4-1-0 with a 1.41 goals-against average in his last five starts. He sounds eager to start the opener of a three-game trip that includes matchups Friday in Ottawa and Sunday against the Penguins.
"It’s going to be a big contest, it’s going to be a playoff-type atmosphere, type game," Crawford said.
Boston’s Tuukka Rask had posted a 1.55 GAA in winning seven straight starts before he made 21 saves Monday. Rask is second in the NHL in save percentage at .930.
The Blackhawks are 0 for 18 on the power play in their last six road games.