BOSTON — Without injured forwards Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm, two members of the Boston Bruins’ top power play unit from the start of the season, the club went through a three-game stretch in late December where it went 0-for-12 with the man-advantage.
But with Dennis Wideman admirably filling Bergeron’s slot at one point and P.J. Axelsson holding his own up front in Sturm’s spot, the Bruins’ power play is finding the right chemistry again, and over the last three games it has clicked at a 4-for-19 clip. The power play will be of utmost importance tonight when the Bruins go head-to-head with the league-best penalty kill of the Minnesota Wild at TD Banknorth Garden.
The last five games have produced a 13-for-16 success rate for the Minnesota penalty kill, and Bruins head coach Claude Julien estimated yesterday that recent opponents of the Wild have only been able to set up during a power play once per opportunity. There shouldn’t be much offense between these two defensive stalwarts, but what there is will probably come on special teams.
Season series: This is the second meeting of the season between the Bruins and Wild, with the Wild earning a 4-3 win in St. Paul Oct. 11. That night the Bruins were 0-for-4 on the power play, while Minnesota was 2-for-3 with the man-advantage.
What they’re writing: Michael Russo in the Star Tribune tells us how 36-year-old Owen Nolan has given the Wild a spark.
Minnesota Player to Watch: He’s only fourth on the Wild in scoring with 8-12-20 totals, but back on Oct. 11, center Eric Belanger was the offensive go-to guy with two goals against the Bruns. With star winger Marian Gaborik out of action for an extended time, Minnesota is going to need the complementary players to pick it up even more. Belanger, one of only three players to enjoy a multi-goal game against the Bruins this season, has put up 5-2-7 totals in 10 career games against the Bruins.