Mar 12, 2013, 8:05 AM EDT
NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Boston Bruins at the Consol Energy Center at 7:30 p.m. ET.
With just under half the season remaining, both teams are serious contenders for the first seed in the Eastern Conference, and while that might not be a shock, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion going into this season.
These teams had serious question marks when the lockout ended. For the Boston Bruins, the big concern revolved around their goaltending and whether Tuukka Rask would make a smooth transition from strong backup to starting netminder while Anton Khudobin, with little prior experience, emerge as a a viable backup. Both have long since squashed those fears.
In the case of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the concerns were largely injury-related. Could Sidney Crosby, plagued by concussion problems in recent years, stay healthy? So far he has.
In fact, Tuesday’s match will feature the top offensive team in the Penguins facing off against the third best defensive team in the league.
33-year-old forward Chris Kunitz in particular has proven to be a major weapon for the Pittsburgh Penguins and one of the season’s biggest surprises. He’s already had two hat tricks in 2013 – including one on Sunday – and will enter tonight’s clash with 36 points in 26 games.
To put Kunitz’s numbers in perspective: If he maintains his current pace, he will set new career-highs in goals and points, despite the fact that this is a shortened season.
That being said, to bill this match purely as a classic contest between offensive and defensive juggernauts would be misleading. The Boston Bruins have plenty of offensive weapons of their own and a deep core of forwards that should keep the Penguins on their toes.
Given that Penguins goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun have struggled this season, the Bruins might be able to match Pittsburgh blow-for-blow even if this turns into a high-scoring affair.
One thing is for sure: This game will feature a lot of stars and two teams that can’t be taken lightly.
Probable goaltenders: PIT – Fleury (12-5-0, 2.71 GAA, .902 SV%) | BOS – Khudobin (4-1-0, 2.42 GAA, .910 SV%)
Top scorers: PIT – Crosby (12-33-45, 26 GP) | BOS – Patrice Bergeron (6-15-21, 23 GP)
- Report: Plotnikov paid $500K to get out of KHL contract 11
- Philadelphia signs ’15 first rounder Provorov 10
- Brandon Saad brings championship experience to Blue Jackets 22
- Sharks sign Joel Ward to three-year deal 24
- Sabres lock up O’Reilly through 2022-23 73
- Locked in: Columbus signs Saad to six-year, $36M deal 27
- Oilers sign McDavid to entry-level contract 29
- ‘Hawks would like to re-sign Oduya, but still working through ‘financial hurdles’ 17
- Trade: Caps acquire Oshie from Blues for Brouwer, Copley and draft pick 73
- Voynov takes plea, gets 90 days in jail plus probation 66
- Blockbuster: Kessel traded to the Penguins (131)
- Trade: Flyers send Rinaldo to Bruins for 2017 third-rounder (105)
- Trade: Jackets land Saad; Anisimov and Dano headed to Chicago (93)
- Bypassing a buyout? Kings terminate Richards’ contract for ‘material breach’ (90)
- Trade: Caps acquire Oshie from Blues for Brouwer, Copley and draft pick (73)