Dec 5, 2011, 3:21 PM EDT
There’s plenty on the line tonight as Pittsburgh hosts Boston in a matchup of the Eastern Conference’s two top teams.
For Boston: 14 straight games unbeaten in regulation; Tim Thomas‘s 10-game winning streak, a chance to move within one point of the Penguins.
For Pittsburgh: Eight straight home games unbeaten in regulation; two-game winning streak, a chance to move five points clear of the Bruins.
Of course, Boston will have a major advantage in the health department.
The B’s have been at full strength almost the entire year, no small feat considering their lengthy Stanley Cup run and short offseason. Eleven players have suited up for all 24 games, allowing head coach Claude Julien to maintain consistency with his lineup — probably a big reason why Boston’s playing so well as of late.
The Pens, meanwhile, have had a much tougher go of things. The injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were well-documented, but the ones Pittsburgh’s suffered on defense have been bad, if not worse. Pittsburgh could be without five defensemen tonight — Kris Letang (out, concussion), Zbynek Michalek (out, concussion), Deryk Engelland (day-to-day, lower body), Ben Lovejoy (out, wrist) and Brian Strait (out, elbow) — leaving Dan Bylsma with Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, a pair of rookies (Roberto Bortuzzo, Simon Despres) and a career journeyman (Alexandre Picard) on the blueline.
- Agent: Subban hasn’t told me to make him NHL’s highest-paid D 16
- Devils sign Greene to five-year, $25M extension 10
- Subban seeking $8.5 million in arbitration, versus the Habs at $5.25 million 42
- Marchand on Plekanec: ‘I hate him. I can’t stand him’ 54
- Gettin’ paid: Gardiner inks five-year, $20.25M extension with Leafs 15
- Report: Trottier to join Sabres’ coaching staff 19
- Blues sign former eighth overall pick Mueller 31
- Trotz plans to let Johansson, Kuznetsov, and Burakovsky compete for time at center 45
- Eric Staal has surgery to repair ‘core muscle injury’ 6
- After not seeing ‘eye-to-eye’ with Carlyle, Reimer will compete for No. 1 gig 16
- Cashing in: Rangers sign Brassard to five-year, $25 million deal (63)
- Marchand on Plekanec: ‘I hate him. I can’t stand him’ (55)
- Trotz plans to let Johansson, Kuznetsov, and Burakovsky compete for time at center (45)
- Subban seeking $8.5 million in arbitration, versus the Habs at $5.25 million (42)
- Richards: If not for the cap, half the league would want to play for Hawks (36)