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NHL on NBC: Contenders clash as Bruins visit Penguins

Mar 17, 2013, 12:01 AM EDT

Boston Bruins v Pittsburgh Penguins Getty Images

While the Montreal Canadiens are in the conversation, Sunday’s NHL on NBC game features a battle between the East’s elite as the deep and dangerous Boston Bruins visit the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Penguins are currently on an eight-game winning streak, with four of those victories coming since Evgeni Malkin was sidelined with an upper-body injury on March 9. Sidney Crosby can sheepishly shrug off best player in the world questions from outlets like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette all he wants, but he’s easily atop the league leaders with 47 points.

He’s not the only Penguins player making waves in Malkin’s absence, either, as Marc-Andre Fleury set another franchise goaltending record with his 23rd career shutout on Saturday.

Still, as smoldering as Pittsburgh is, many wonder if the team can play strong enough defense to make a deep playoff run in 2013 … especially against a team as balanced as the Boston Bruins.

Speaking of finding the right balance, Bruins head coach Claude Julien told CSNNE.com that Saturday’s rugged 4-1 win against the Washington Capitals showed glimpses of what he wants to see from that team.

“With what happened against that team in the last year, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be ready to play them tonight. We’ve got to start playing closer to our identity,” Julien said. “It’s about putting pucks in, fore-checking, it’s about being physical, it’s about being aggressive in more areas, and more or less playing a north-south type of game. I thought we did that tonight.”

The two teams tested each other on Tuesday, with the Penguins prevailing 3-2 against the Bruins thanks to a three-goal third period that dismantled Boston’s 2-0 lead.

Could the Penguins extend their winning streak to nine straight games or will the Bruins get revenge for Tuesday’s loss? We’ll find out starting at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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