Fresh off the NHL All-Star break, the Boston Bruins gear up for plenty of home cooking with a view from the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins, who lead the second-place Florida Panthers by five points in the conference standings, host the Calgary Flames in the opener of a seven-game homestand on Tuesday night.
Especially after dominating the competition en route to a Presidents’ Trophy before a first-round playoff exit in 2022-23, Boston knows the immense challenge that lies ahead over the two-plus months left in the regular season and beyond.
“Everything picks up and you start playing for real,” Bruins captain Brad Marchand said. “It gets harder every few games and teams start figuring out the playoff spots and all that.
“It’s the best time of year and I’m really looking forward to getting back at it.”
Forward David Pastrnak, goaltender Jeremy Swayman and coach Jim Montgomery all took part in the recent NHL All-Star Game festivities in Toronto, before which the Bruins had suffered just one regulation loss over a 12-game span (8-1-3).
Pastrnak entered Monday as the third-leading scorer in the NHL in both goals (33) and points (72). He logged three goals and two assists across Boston’s wins over Ottawa and Philadelphia prior to the break.
Montgomery hopes that his club can return to the same form as a busy stretch begins on home ice. The Bruins won’t play a road game until a four-game trip begins on Feb. 21 in Edmonton.
“Since Christmas, I think we have really found our identity. We always talk about playing to our strength and what gives us success,” Montgomery said. “We’re going to be able to get into a little bit of a rhythm (during the homestand), but we just go game-by-game and stay in the moment.”
The status of forward Matt Poitras for Tuesday’s game remains unclear after an undisclosed injury sidelined him for the Bruins’ most recent game on Jan. 27, a 6-2 win in Philadelphia.
The Flames broke a four-game skid with a 1-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 27, but sit five points behind the two teams — St. Louis and Nashville — that hold the second Western Conference wild-card spot.
Yegor Sharangovich became Calgary’s second 20-goal scorer with three goals in his past six games. Blake Coleman is the other, having totaled a team-high 40 points.
The many new faces in the dressing room are headlined by right winger Andrei Kuzmenko, acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in the Elias Lindholm deal last Wednesday.
“He most definitely has offensive ability,” Flames coach Ryan Huska said. “One thing we like about him is he’s very strong on pucks and he’s able to do a job of holding people off once he has that puck.”
Huska also expects Kuzmenko to be a threat on the power play, where Calgary has converted at just 13.8 percent (29th in the NHL).
Additionally, defenseman Brayden Pachal was claimed off waivers Sunday from the reigning Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, and the forward trio of Jakob Pelletier, Kevin Rooney and Cole Schwindt were all recalled from the AHL.
The 24-year-old Pachal played in 10 games with Vegas last season and scored his first NHL goal during a 17-game run this season.
“To see what it takes to reach the pinnacle moment in hockey, that’s something I’ll take on as a learning experience and hopefully take that to the new team that I’m joining now,” Pachal said.
–Field Level Media
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