NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, March 29th (All times Eastern)
Boston Bruins (50-17-6) at Washington Capitals (34-27-12), 12:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Boston Bruins will try to wrap up the Atlantic Division title when they visit the playoff-hopeful Washington Capitals in Saturday's battle at Verizon Center.
Boston has already locked up a playoff spot and only needs one point from today's game to secure its third division title in four years. The Bruins won the now-defunct Northeast Division in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 and currently hold a 15-point lead over Montreal for first place in the Atlantic.
The B's also hold a seven-point edge over Pittsburgh for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Boston has a game in hand to use over the idle Penguins on Saturday.
While the Bruins are playoff bound, the Capitals enter Saturday as one of four teams tied for the two wild card spots. Washington, Columbus, Detroit and Toronto all have 80 points, and all but the Maple Leafs have nine games remaining on the schedule.
The Capitals have fewer non-shootout wins than the Blue Jackets and Red Wings, ceding the tiebreaker to the two clubs.
Although Washington has lost two of its last three games, the club has registered at least a point in six straight contests (4-0-2).
The Caps last played on Tuesday, when they dropped a 5-4 shootout decision against the visiting Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period, scoring three times to go up 4-3, but Washington rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov forced overtime with his first NHL goal inside the final minute of regulation. However, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter scored in the shootout phase to deliver the win for L.A.
Alex Ovechkin potted his NHL-leading 47th and 48th goals of the season for Washington, which lost playmaking center Nicklas Backstrom to an upper-body injury in the second period.
"Obviously, you miss Backy, but every team has guys that go out," said Washington head coach Adam Oates. "You've got 19 other guys to do the job. We've got plenty of other guys that can do the job."
Backstrom has returned to practice since taking a hard hit from Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and is expected to play today. The Swedish forward is second to Ovechkin on the team with 70 points on 13 goals and 57 assists.
Defenseman Jack Hillen is questionable with an upper-body injury after accidentally colliding with Ovechkin in overtime of Tuesday's loss.
Washington is completing a brief two-game homestand on Saturday and is 20-11-6 as the host this season. After this afternoon's game. the Caps will play five of their next six on the road.
The Caps' point streak pales in comparison to Boston's current run. The Bruins have won 13 of their past 14 games, going 13-0-1 along the way.
After Boston had a 12-game winning streak snapped in Monday's shootout loss against Montreal, the Bruins rebounded by beating Chicago to take the second part of a two-game homestand.
Patrice Bergeron scored two goals to help the Bruins blank Chicago, 3-0, in the Blackhawks' first visit to TD Garden since winning the Stanley Cup last June. Chicago, of course, beat Boston in six games of last season's Cup Finals, giving the Hawks their second championship in four years.
Tuukka Rask made 28 saves for his NHL-leading seventh shutout of the season.
"'Satisfied' is not a word that exists in our dressing room," Boston head coach Claude Julien said. "Happy is one thing but you continue to strive to get better and there's always parts of your game, including tonight, that you want to get better at. So, we're just, as a coaching staff, we just want to stay on top of those things and make sure we keep our guys sharp."
Beginning with today's test, the Bruins will play four straight and six of their next seven games on the road. Boston has won seven in a row on the road and is 21-10-3 away from Beantown this season.
The Bruins and Caps have split the first two of three meetings this season, but Washington will aim for its sixth win in eight encounters when the clubs face off in Saturday's rubber match. In addition to winning five of the last seven matchups overall, the Caps have claimed four of five and nine of the last 12 regular-season encounters in D.C.
Washington also beat the Bruins in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs, eliminating Boston in seven games.
03/29 10:24:21 ET