Preview: Blues figure to pepper Bruins with lots of shots
Tuukka Rask prefers to face a lot of shots.
The St. Louis Blues are likely to comply.
Rask will probably get the nod in net and find himself busy again as he tries to help the Boston Bruins to their first home win over the Blues in nearly 13 years Thursday night.
Boston (14-6-1) gives up a league-low 1.76 goals per game, and Rask is a big reason for that.
He ranks among the NHL leaders in wins (12), goals-against average (1.61), save percentage (.946) and shutouts (2). He's looked every bit like one of the best goaltenders in the league over his last six games, winning five while allowing one or no goals in those victories.
He had a career-high 43 saves -- one on a penalty shot -- to power Boston's 2-1 road win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday. That came a night after he stopped 23 shots in a 4-1 victory at Carolina.
"I like to face more shots than less obviously, but it's a back-to-back game and it goes over 40 so you kind of feel fatigue out there ... but I like it more than less," Rask told the team's official website.
He should be plenty busy against the Blues (14-3-3), who are off to the best 20-game start in franchise history and average 3.40 goals to rank behind only Chicago (3.46). They also own the NHL's top power play at 25.7 percent, and they're 6 of 17 over the past four games.
Rask's only home meeting with St. Louis resulted in a 2-1 shootout defeat Nov. 6, 2010. He made 34 saves before allowing goals on both attempts in the tiebreaker as the Bruins' home losing streak in the series reached five (0-2-3).
Boston last defeated the Blues at TD Garden on Jan. 30, 2001.
The Bruins have outscored opponents 13-4 while winning four in a row at home, and Rask has stopped 84 of 86 shots in starting three of those games.
Maintaining that success could be even more important with St. Louis expected to turn to Jaroslav Halak in goal. He's coming off a 23-save effort in Tuesday's 4-1 win at Buffalo, two days after being pulled in the second period for allowing three goals on six shots in a defeat by the same score at Washington.
"I was hoping to get a few shots early in the game, but not the way it was," said Halak, who allowed a goal on the opening shot after just 10 seconds against the Sabres. "I started feeling more comfortable as the game went on, especially in the second I made some saves that got my confidence back and I started feeling better."
Halak has won his last two games in Boston via shootouts, stopping 78 of 81 shots through overtime. That includes 33 saves and three more in the tiebreaker opposite Rask in November 2010.
St. Louis' Alexander Steen is among the league leaders with 26 points, while his 17 goals tie him with the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin for the most in the NHL. However, the center -- who had 27 points last season -- has been kept off the score sheet in back-to-back games after a career-high 13-game point streak.
Steen has five goals and eight assists over his last nine visits to Boston, including one point in each of the past four.
The Bruins are beginning a stretch of playing six of eight at home, and that may be a relief for David Krejci. The center has accumulated 11 of his team-leading 16 points at home, and he failed to muster a point during a 2-1-0 trip.
It's unclear if Boston will have defenseman Dennis Seidenberg available after he suffered a lower-body injury Tuesday.