With a win at the Garden tonight against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets, and losses by Ottawa and Montreal, the Boston Bruins can get into the top 8 in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins have stormed out of the Eastern Conference cellar since the start of November, winning six in a row and scoring a combined 34 goals over that stretch. Their five game homestand ends tonight against Rick Nash and the pitiful Jackets, and the Bruins would love to complete it with a perfect 5-0-0 record.
Columbus enters tonight's game with a horrendous 3-13-1 record. The Jackets, with Scott Arniel still miraculously behind the bench are 8 points behind 14th-place Calgary in the Western Conference. Basically, they are bad. The Flyers beat them 9-2 a few weeks ago. If the Jackets win tonight, it will be their first road win of the season. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
According to the Bruins' Twitter feed, Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice, so it looks like he'll get his third start in a row. Coach Claude Julien said there is a "good chance" that Daniel Paille will return to the lineup tonight after getting hit in the face by a Steve Staios slapper November 7 against the Islanders. Paille suffered a broken nose and facial lacerations. I wouldn't be surprised if he's wearing a full cage. Johnny Boychuk missed practice today with "flu-like symptoms," and is questionable for tonight's game. If he can't go, Andrew Ference could possibly return to the lineup after being out for two games with a lower-body injury.
Curtis Sanford will get the start for the Jackets tonight, and through 18 minutes of the 2011-2012 season has not given up a goal, so that's good. Nash is always dangerous, and Jeff Carter is back from injury, so there is some talent up front for Columbus. Ryan Johansen, at the age of 19, has flashed some skill at times as well. But this is a bad team, and though the Bruins shouldn't overlook anyone, this is a game they should win.
Blue Jackets SB Nation Site: The Cannon
Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. EST TV: NESN
Public Skate will be open at 6:30.