The Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves in the same position prior to Friday’s matinee at TD Garden despite taking vastly different paths to get there. The Bruins have won three in a row to elevate into fourth place in the Atlantic Division while the reigning Stanley Cup champions have cooled considerably after a hot start with losses in eight of 12 (4-6-2) to drop into fourth in the Metropolitan.
Patrice Bergeron’s return to health from offseason sports hernia surgery is evident in his recent play as the four-time Selke Trophy recipient scored in Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout win over New Jersey. Bergeron has recorded nine points (four goals, five assists) in his last 11 games overall and has flustered the Penguins to the tune of 33 points (10 goals, 23 assists) in 40 career encounters. While Boston sports a 5-0-1 mark in its last six home games against Pittsburgh, the Penguins have dropped seven of their last nine (2-5-2) overall away from the Steel City. Jake Guentzel, who has five goals and an assist in his last eight games, scored twice on the power play for his first multi-goal performance of the season in Wednesday’s 5-2 setback versus Vancouver.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, NBC
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (11-9-3): Guentzel’s eight goals have him tied for team top honors with Massachusetts native Conor Sheary and Phil Kessel, who notched a pair of assists against the Canucks for his club-best seventh multi-point performance of the season. Kessel has collected 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight contests and secured at least one point in 17 of 23 games this season. Superstar captain Sidney Crosby has just seven points (one goal, six assists) in his past 13 contests, but Boston tends to bring out his best as the two-time Hart Trophy winner has recorded 45 points (12 goals, 33 assists) in 33 regular-season encounters.
ABOUT THE BRUINS (9-7-4): The kids are alright for Boston, which saw 19-year-old defenseman Charlie McAvoy, fellow first-round pick Jake DeBrusk and promising 22-year-old forward Danton Heinen continue their strong play on Wednesday. McAvoy logged a game-high 27:04 of ice time and converted in the 11th round of the shootout, the 21-year-old DeBrusk scored in regulation and Heinen notched an assist to extend his point streak to four games (two goals, two assists). “I think maybe the young guys have gotten a little closer because we’ve been a group, going through the same things,” McAvoy said. “... I anticipate us becoming even closer as we go here.”
1. Pittsburgh C Evgeni Malkin will miss his second straight game with an upper-body injury, coach Mike Sullivan said on Thursday.
2. Boston G Anton Khudobin owns a blistering .955 save percentage in his last five games.
3. Penguins RW Carter Rowney, who participated in warmups on Wednesday, could draw back into the lineup following a 14-game absence with an upper-body injury.
PREDICTION: Penguins 3, Bruins 2