Last 10: Boston 6-4-0; Vancouver 6-4-0
Season series: This is the only meeting between these teams on the 2010-11 schedule. They last met on Feb. 6, 2010, with Vancouver recording a 3-2 win in Boston via the shootout. Roberto Luongo outdueled Tuukka Rask in that game.
Big story: A pair of division leaders with Stanley Cup aspirations square off. Boston has earned victories on the first three stops of a six-game road trip and leads Montreal by four points in the Northeast. Vancouver has taken two of three on a six-game homestand and is not only running away with the Northwest, holding a 17-point lead over Minnesota, but is one point better than Philadelphia for first in the overall NHL standings.
Bruins: For one of the best road teams in the League at 19-7-4, this lengthy road trip seems to be exactly what was needed to turn Boston's fortunes around. The Bruins had dropped three in a row before beating the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 17, but followed that up with a win over the Senators the following night and a 3-1 victory Tuesday against a Flames team that has been scorching hot since the start of the calendar year. Milan Lucic opened the scoring 59 seconds in and capped it by hitting the empty net in the final minute.
"Our game kind of fell off in January because we weren't making smart plays. We were coughing up pucks, weren't moving like we usually do," Lucic said of his line with David Krejci and Nathan Horton. "These last couple of games, we're skating again, we're strong on the puck and we're winning battles. If we want to be an effective line, that's what we need to do."
Canucks: It's been win-loss, win-loss for Vancouver over the past nine games. The Canucks will look to string consecutive victories together for the first time since a six-game streak that bridged the end of January and beginning of February. Manny Malhotra, whose name has been bandied about in talk for the Selke Trophy awarded annually to the League's top defensive forward, showed his offensive abilities by snapping a tie 1:05 into the third Thursday and leading the Canucks to a 3-2 win over the Blues.
"I just wanted to get a quick shot," Malhotra said. "It was a great job by Raffi (Torres) and Jannik (Hansen) to create the turnover, a great forecheck."
Who's hot: Brad Marchand has 3 goals in the Bruins' last two games and is now third on the team with 19 for the season. Lucic has 3 goals in as many games. David Krejci has 1 goal and 5 assists during a three-game points streak. Mark Recchi has 1 goal and 4 assists during a five-game points streak. Patrice Bergeron has 1 goal and 3 assists during a four-game points streak. … Daniel Sedin (3-3-6) and Henrik Sedin (2-4-6) have four-game points streaks going for the Canucks. Mikael Samuelsson has goals in consecutive games.
Stat pack: The Bruins are 33-4-4 this season in games in which they hold a lead. They're 19-0-1 when scoring the first two goals in a game. … The Canucks lead the League in goals per game (3.23), goals-against (2.29) and power-play success (25.1 percent).
Puck drop: Tim Thomas continues to pace NHL goaltenders in goals-against average (1.99), save percentage (.939) and shutouts (7, tied with Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers), but Boston coach Claude Julien will make sure the 36-year-old veteran doesn't get overworked and get Rask his share of work as well.
"That whole week was good for him," Julien said. "Tuukka was able to win us a couple games in that span. It's great to see. We're hoping that we can utilize both of them from here on in so we're in a position to have some fresh goaltenders heading into the postseason."