PITTSBURGH – The Bruins are looking forward to their league-mandated, five-day bye week. But they know they have some business to take care of tonight in Pittsburgh before they get to settle in for some much-needed R&R.
“We have five days off after this, leaving on a high note – you don’t want to be thinking about a game that you let slip away for the next five days,” Riley Nash said following an optional morning skate at PPG Paints Arena. “Just sticking with it, doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve been playing well, all the lines have been playing hard.”
The Black & Gold will be attempting to extend their points streak (8-0-2) to 11 games when they take the ice against the Penguins on Sunday night. But the players don’t seem worried about the bye week throwing a wrench into their torrid stretch.
“I think everyone needs the rest. You can look at it anyway you want,” said Nash, who tallied his fifth goal of the season in the B’s 7-1 win over Carolina on Saturday night. “If a team is struggling, it comes at a good time, if you’re doing well it comes at a bad time. It’s just the way you look at it. All in all, I think we can keep it up.
“Over the Christmas break we obviously came back and still played good hockey. I think we’ve shown that after a couple days off we can do it.”
The bye week will be the second of three extended breaks for the Bruins within a month’s span. Boston also had three days off for the holiday break and will have three more at the All-Star break later this month (Jan. 26-28).
“It’s always good to get rest in the middle of the year,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “It’s going to be the second of three in a short period of time. I think for me, it they’re spaced out a little better it’s probably more effective for the players. But it is what it is.
“We’re going to get on feeling good about our game. That’s the good news. And hopefully come back re-energized because we’ve got a lot of hockey. We’re a little behind with our schedule.
“Again, hopefully the guys do take it for what it’s worth and come back ready to go.”
Boston took the first matchup with the Penguins the day after Thanksgiving with a 4-3 victory at TD Garden. David Pastrnak potted the winner five minutes into the third on a breakaway.
Pittsburgh has been up and down since that meeting, posting a 10-9-0 record. The Pens are 5-5-0 over their last 10 and sit 1 point behind Carolina for the East’s second wild card spot.
Cassidy noted the two-time defending champions’ potent special teams as the focus for the B’s this evening. Pittsburgh is first in the league on the power play (25.8%) and 11th on the penalty kill (82.1%).
“Very good special teams. You think of their power play all the time, but their penalty kill is pretty good too,” said Cassidy. “If you can keep it to a 5-on-5 game it plays into our benefit because I think we’re very strong there, our special teams are good as well.
“We’re not going to shy away from that. I think that would be more to their strengths, so hopefully we have the discipline to stay out of the box, check with our feet, good sticks and see where it leads us.”
Question Mark Up Front
Bruce Cassidy said there is one question mark among the forward group, which will be a game-time decision. Cassidy did not specify which player he was referring to, but Ryan Spooner missed the second half of Saturday night’s third period.
“He went off. He missed probably the last 10 minutes. I have no update. I don’t know if I would keep him out of the lineup tomorrow,” Cassidy said following the win over the Hurricanes.
Pasta Snaps Skid
David Pastrnak snapped his 10-game scoreless streak on Saturday night with a one-time power-play blast off a feed from Patrice Bergeron. The 21-year-old winger also notched two assists.
“Obviously it’s nice,” said Pastrnak. “It was a good PP and good battles there and a nice play by Bergy, so it felt nice to get it in…I wasn’t thinking about it until you guys told me – I had no idea. Obviously it’s been a while, but those things happen and it’s normal. It was a lot of help that we were playing really good.”
Wait, There’s More
Tuukka Rask will make the start between the pipes. He is 11-0-1 over his last 12 games.
The Bruins held an optional pregame skate on Sunday morning. Bergeron and Spooner were among a small contingent that took the ice.
Boston’s five-goal first period against Carolina was their first such period since a five-goal third against Philadelphia in 2011.
Kevan Miller posted a plus-4 rating on Saturday night, while notching an assist on Riley Nash’s fifth of the year early in the first period. The blue liner was on the ice for three of Bergeron’s four goals.
Sean Kuraly won 10 of 11 faceoffs against the Hurricanes.