Halfway Home: Bruins Looking for a Drama-Free Game Against Carolina

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 18: Nathan Horton #18 of the Boston Bruins and Tim Gleason #6 of the Carolina Hurricanes fight in the third period on October 18, 2011 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The last time Boston and Carolina met, the Bruins couldn't get out of their own way. This time, the team that seems to find drama everywhere it goes is hoping for a clean game.

The Bruins amassed 18 penalties in the 4-1 loss at TD Garden back on October including three misconducts, a goalie leaving the crease infraction and an abuse of officials foul, totaling 71 minutes of penalty time.

The Hurricanes were trending downward then, and they haven't been able to turn much around in the three months since, as the former Hartford Whalers now sit 14th in the Eastern Conference, ahead of only the New York Islanders (who, just one point behind Carolina, also have four games in hand).

It's been a tough year for Carolina, which has struggled to get consistent play in front of Cam Ward for long stretches since the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006. But it doesn't look like it's going to get any easier with Boston coming to town.

The Bruins, who begin a four-game road trip and a stretch of five games in eight days today at Carolina, come in as the hottest team in hockey, casting aside an October that saw them go 3-7 and winning 25 of their 30 games since to shoot to first in the Northeast and second in the Eastern Conference, just a point behind the New York Rangers, who play at Toronto tonight.

It's game 41 - the halfway point of the marathon - for the Bruins, who have been the league's most dominant team since the calendar turned to November and don't show any signs of slowing down, despite the fact that Brad Marchand will still be sitting out for three more games.

Despite the fact that Carolina hasn't been playing well, the two points tonight are as important as ever for Boston, which plays seven games in its next 11 days, including six on the road and back-to-backs against Florida and Tampa and another back-to-back when the Rangers visit Boston on 1/21 followed by a trip to Philadelphia on 1/22.

The "I got next" goaltending platoon should continue tonight for Boston, with Tuukka Rask likely to get the nod in net. The Bruins are likely to sit Zach Hamill again as they try to build on Jordan Caron's performance Thursday night against Montreal. Everything else should look pretty familiar:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton

Tyler Seguin - Patrice Bergeron - Benoit Pouliot

Rich Peverley - Chris Kelly - Jordan Caron

Shawn Thornton - Gregory Campbell - Daniel Paille

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk

Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo

Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask

Tim Thomas

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