Penguins-Bruins Preview

The Pittsburgh Penguins had no problems beating one fellow

Stanley Cup contender in their latest game despite the absence of

Evgeni Malkin.

They’d love to see the same scenario unfold Saturday night in

Boston.

With Malkin on the shelf again, the Penguins will try to extend

their winning streak to six against a Bruins team that handed them

their most recent defeat.

Pittsburgh (20-9-1) found out Thursday that a lower-body injury

suffered during the morning skate would keep Malkin out that night

versus San Jose, but it thrived even without the NHL’s

second-leading scorer. Sidney Crosby increased his league-leading

total to 41 points with three assists, Chris Kunitz scored twice

and Marc-Andre Fleury made 44 saves in a 5-1 rout of the Pacific

Division-leading Sharks.

“No one is going to replace Geno,” said winger Jayson Megna, who

scored one of the Penguins’ four goals in a seven-minute span early

in the second period. “We have guys that fill in, step up. If we

stick to our system we don’t complain.”

Pittsburgh will head to Boston without Malkin, but its injury

concerns up front don’t stop there. Pascal Dupuis left Thursday’s

game in the second period with a lower-body injury and may miss

Saturday’s game, while Andrew Ebbett suffered a broken ankle and

was placed on injured reserve.

The Bruins (18-8-2), meanwhile, have issues on their back end.

Defenseman Johnny Boychuk was taken off on a stretcher after a hit

from behind by Montreal’s Max Pacioretty in the first period of

Thursday’s 2-1 loss.

Boychuk was taken to the hospital but cleared to travel back to

Boston. He’ll undergo an MRI on his lower back there, though it

appears he’ll be out for a while.

“We’re all hoping he’s going to be okay, but at that moment you

can’t really do much; you’re just hoping that he’s going to be

okay,” said defensive partner Zdeno Chara. “It’s never an easy

sight.”

The Bruins’ play in the second was also tough to swallow for

coach Claude Julien. Montreal scored both of its goals in that

period while outshooting Boston 18-7.

Julien’s team has a minus-2 goal differential in the second

period this season. It has outscored opponents by 10 in the first

and nine in the third.

“The second period was atrocious,” Julien said. “It was

unacceptable.

“There are no excuses about playing with five defensemen. We

have to look in the mirror.”

Defenseman Adam McQuaid has missed nine of the past 12 games

with a groin injury, but the Bruins may be able to afford a dent in

their defensive depth with Tuukka Rask in net. Rask has a 1.69

goals-against average and .941 save percentage at home, both among

the best marks in the league.

He gave up only two goals in the Bruins’ Eastern Conference

finals sweep of Pittsburgh last spring, but has posted the same

line in two starts against the Penguins this season – stopping 28

of 31 shots.

Pittsburgh won 3-2 at home Oct. 30, then the Bruins won 4-3 in

overtime at the TD Garden on Nov. 25 despite blowing a two-goal,

third-period lead as Crosby tied it with 0.3 seconds left.

The Penguins have the NHL’s best power play (26.5 percent) while

both Pittsburgh and Boston have top-five penalty kills, but don’t

expect special teams to be a huge part in this one. There have been

a total of five power plays in the six-plus periods between the

teams this season.

The only game in the last nine in which the Penguins failed to

score with the man advantage (12 for 27, 44.4 percent) was when

they went 0 for 1 against Boston.