carolina_hurricanes_logoConsider this game the tune-up.

With a grudge match with Montreal awaiting the Boston Bruins Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes come into TD Banknorth Garden with hopes that the Bruins might make the mistake of looking too far ahead.

Of course, life isn’t getting any easier for the Bruins these days. Already without Patrice Bergeron (concussion) and Marco Sturm (knee), the Bruins know they’ll take the ice without Milan Lucic (undisclosed) for a second straight game. Their depth, which has sufficed all season, is truly being tested now — hence the shuffle of two forwards to Providence (AHL) and two to Boston, plus the move of Chuck Kobasew to Marc Savard’s line Thursday.

The Bruins will need a better effort than the one they beat Ottawa with the other night, particularly breaking out of their own end. The Hurricanes can thrive on turnovers created by their forecheck, particularly from All-Star Eric Staal.

Season series: This is the third of four meetings this year between Boston and Carolina. The Bruins won the previous two match-ups — both by two goals with an empty-netter providing the final margin. The teams will finish their season series Feb. 17 in Raleigh.

What they’re writing: Carolina defenseman Anton Babchuk has been showing flashes of offensive ability from the blue line, as Chip Alexander of the News & Observer tells us. And yesterday, Paul Branecky had this piece on the ‘Canes’ changes under new head coach Paul Maurice on hurricanes.com.

Carolina player to watch: Former Bruins winger Sergei Samsonov is still at it, and he might be finally turning up the offensive heat. He has goals in each of the ‘Canes’ last two games. He also has four goals, three assists in his last five outings and 20 points in his last 24 games games after recording just three assists in the first 18 games of the season. Tonight will be Samsonov’s 700th career NHL game.