Prior to a shutout loss on Wednesday against Toronto, Pittsburgh ended a six-game losing streak by winning eight games in a row, and has been playing some of the best hockey in the league since the calendar turned to 2012.
Evgeni Malkin (27-32=59 totals in just 44 games) has been playing some spectacular hockey in the absence of team captain Sidney Crosby, who continues to suffer from concussion-related symptoms. James Neal (27-21=48 51 games) and Chris Kunitz (14-18=32) have also been strong for Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile the Bruins, who had been playing the best hockey in the league in November and December, have been hampered by injuries, suspensions and the absence of strong fundamentals as they have fallen to inferior opponents time and again. After going 21-3-1 in the final two months of 2011, the Bruins are 8-5-1 since the calendar turned, and haven't won consecutive games since January 12th.
The Black and Gold also haven't lost consecutive games in that time, however, and after falling in humiliating fashion to Carolina on Thursday night, it's likely that the Bruins will have a bit more fire under them as they take the ice this afternoon at TD Garden.
Boston beat Pittsburgh 3-1 back in early December in the final game of their NHL-best 14-game point streak earlier this season, but this is a much different Pittsburgh team. It's also, as it turns out, a much different Boston team.
Expect Tim Thomas to man the pipes for Boston, with the rest of the roster shaking out like this: