Tuukka Rask has played a major role in the Boston Bruins’ recent dominance over the Arizona Coyotes, but it’s unknown if he’ll be available for the next matchup.
An illness forced the goaltender to end a lengthy streak of appearances in the Bruins’ latest game, and he’ll try to get well enough for their attempt to avoid their longest home losing streak in five seasons Saturday.
Boston (30-22-9) has won five in a row over the Coyotes (20-35-7), with Rask starting four and recording a 1.49 goals-against average. He stopped 24 shots in a 5-2 win in Arizona on Dec. 6, but was scratched before Friday’s game in New Jersey, his first absence since a 3-0 win over the Devils on Jan. 8.
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Niklas Svedberg stopped 27 shots Friday against New Jersey and Boston recovered after blowing a two-goal lead to register a 3-2 overtime win. Ryan Spooner’s first career NHL goal provided the Bruins just their second win in nine games (2-5-2) and a four-point lead for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
"Personally, and for the team as well, I needed a good performance," Svedberg said. "That’s the way it is. It was a big game in both aspects, so it feels really good. We had a tough stretch, but we battled through it."
The Bruins will try to bolster their position by avoiding their first four-game skid at home since going 0-7-3 from Jan. 7-March 2, 2010.
Arizona, meanwhile, is close to being mathematically eliminated from the playoff race and dropping into last place in the West with its string of eight consecutive regulation defeats. That skid is the Coyotes’ longest since a franchise record-tying 10-game run from Feb. 6-25, 1994, while in Winnipeg.
Arizona, just one point ahead of cellar-dwelling Edmonton, fell 4-3 at the New York Rangers on Thursday after blowing an early two-goal lead.
Sam Gagner scored twice in the final 2:10 of the opening period but the Coyotes failed to build on that. They gave up the tiebreaking goal with 2:14 remaining in their fifth consecutive road defeat.
"It feels awful. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the position we’re in or not. When you go on a skid like this, it’s just a bad feeling, and it makes for tough and long days," said defenseman Keith Yandle, a Boston native. "We have to get out of it and get out of it quick."
Arizona, allowing a league-worst 3.31 goals per game, has been outscored 32-12 during its losing streak and 16-6 in its last five matchups with Boston. The Bruins have faced the Coyotes only once at home during that run, winning 2-1 on March 13.
Brad Marchand scored a pair of goals in the win over Phoenix in December, but he has two goals and three assists in his 11 games this month. Marchand is tied for the team lead with 17 goals.
Arizona hasn’t dropped six straight on the road since March 6-27, 2013.