BOSTON — Two teams headed in different directions come out of the NHL holiday break against each other at TD Garden on Wednesday night.
The Boston Bruins, winners of four straight by a combined 15-4 count, are 13-3-1 in their last 17 games. They are in third place in the Atlantic Division, two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs but with three games in hand.
The Ottawa Senators, who knocked the Bruins out of last year’s playoffs, have lost three straight, seven of their last 10 (3-5-2) and are 3-12-3 in their last 18. They have been shut out in five of their last 10 games and have more points (30) than only the Buffalo Sabres (25) and Arizona Coyotes (21).
“The last month was good,” goaltender Tuukka Rask said after lifting his own personal streak to 8-0-1 in his last nine games in the final game before the break, capping a 3-0 week that saw him named the NHL’s No. 1 star. “We’re trending in the right direction and playing the way we want to play, and it’s been resulting in wins. We’ve just got to keep it going after the break.”
The top line of Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak has been more than stellar and younger players such as Jake DeBrusk have excelled at just the right time. On the back end, Zdeno Chara is playing like someone younger than his 40 years.
The Bruins haven’t played the Senators yet this season, but this is a different team than the one that knocked Boston out of last spring’s playoffs. A big three-way trade that sent the steady Kyle Turris to Nashville and brought Matt Duchene to Ottawa from Colorado hasn’t worked out, and there have even been reports this team could deal captain Erik Karlsson to start an overhaul.
For now, there’s work to be done.
“It’s going to be nice to get a little bit of a mental break,” Karlsson said after a 1-0 loss at Florida brought the Senators to the three-day break. “We’re going to come back on the 27th and be ready to go again.
“I think that Christmas time always seems to come at a good time. And whether things have been going the way we want or not, we’re going to try and get away from it for a bit and enjoy something else.”
Both teams have been battling injuries and illness and there was no official word who would and would not play Wednesday. Key names include Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan (finger) and Boston’s David Krejci (back).
For their last game, the Senators counted eight players as unavailable, coach Guy Boucher saying, “It’s been pouring a lot.”
As for Ryan, Boucher said, “He’s got to be able to hold his stick and he’s real tough with that. This guy plays injured. He really does. It’s not like he bails out.”
The goaltending situation is an interesting one as both No. 1s have had troubles against the other team.
Rask is 8-7-4 with a 2.34 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage against the Senators, while backup Anton Khudobin is 5-0-1, 1.81, .948.
On the other side, starter Craig Anderson is 12-11-0 with a 2.96 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage against Boston while No. 2 Mike Condon is 4-2-2, 2.28, .914, including a Winter Classic victory for the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium.
Rask and Anderson are expected to play coming out of the break, although Anderson has been battling illness. Rask, too, played while under the weather two games ago but was fine Saturday.