The Boston Bruins continue to suffer through an injury-plagued season but could have two important players back in the lineup when they host the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday. Brad Marchand (upper body) and David Backes (colon surgery) are game-time decisions for the contest, while fellow forward Ryan Spooner (groin) also could return for the Bruins.
That bit of good news was spoiled by the announcement that forwards Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci were ruled out for Wednesday’s game with upper-body ailments, but Boston has been plowing forward with four wins in their last five contests. The Bruins did not make it clear whether Anton Khudobin (7-0-2, four straight wins) or Tuukka Rask (3-8-2, four straight losses) would get the start against the Lightning, who snapped out of a mini-slump (1-3-0) by blanking Buffalo 2-0 on Tuesday as the red-hot Andrei Vasilevskiy made 34 saves. Mikhail Sergachev and Daniel Girardi scored in the victory, giving Tampa Bay 16 goals from its defense corps this season, as the team recorded its second shutout after allowing 15 tallies in its previous four games. Nikita Kucherov notched an assist for the Lightning but remained at a team-high 17 goals as his drought reached five contests while captain Steven Stamkos entered Tuesday with a league-leading 36 points but just one in his last five games.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (17-5-2): Sergachev, who was acquired in a blockbuster offseason trade from Montreal for Jonathan Drouin, leads all NHL rookie defensemen with six goals and is second to New Jersey’s Will Butcher with 16 points. Ondrej Palat, who has been key on the team’s hard-working second line along with center Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde, notched an assist on Tuesday and has collected six points in his last six games. The 23-year-old Vasilevskiy, who has allowed fewer than three goals in 13 of his last 16 starts, may make his second in two nights after registering his league-leading 16th victory against Buffalo.
ABOUT THE BRUINS (10-8-4): Krejci aggravated his upper-body injury in Boston’s 4-2 loss to Edmonton on Sunday, but the team is getting healthier with Marchand and Backes (499 career points) - along with the 21-year-old Anders Bjork (upper body) - close to returning. David Pastrnak leads the club in goals (12) and points (20) after scoring in two straight contests while Marchand still is second with 15 points despite missing eight games. Defenseman Torey Krug has recorded 11 points (two goals) in his last 10 games while 19-year-old rookie blue-liner Charlie McAvoy has notched 11 in his first 22 regular-season contests.
1. The Bruins have won four of the last five meetings but dropped a 6-3 home decision to the Lightning last season.
2. Tampa Bay D Jake Dotchin is expected to miss his fifth straight game with an undisclosed injury.
3. Boston C Patrice Bergeron is winning 63.4 percent of faceoffs in short-handed situations, ranking him among the league’s best.
PREDICTION: Bruins 4, Lightning 3