While trying to overcome the dreaded Stanley Cup hangover, the Boston Bruins dropped a pair of games to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first two weeks of the season.
Given the teams' positions in the standings, it would appear the Bruins might have a better chance to win when they visit the RBC Center on Saturday night. The Hurricanes, however, have been successful in most of their recent home games.
Boston's 3-7-0 start included a 3-2 loss in North Carolina on Oct. 12 and a 4-1 home defeat to the Hurricanes six days later in a game that featured a season-high 72 penalty minutes for the Bruins. That start, though, has been all but a distant memory with Boston having won 25 of 30 and 11 of 13 on the road.
While the Bruins (28-11-1) are contending for the Eastern Conference lead, the Hurricanes (15-23-7) are one point ahead of the last-place New York Islanders and 7-12-4 in their past 23.
Carolina, though, is 4-1-1 in its last six home games but fell 2-1 to Philadelphia on Tuesday. The Hurricanes rebounded for a 5-2 win at Tampa on Thursday as Jiri Tlusty scored two of his team's four first-period goals and assisted on another.
Captain Eric Staal had three assists and Tuomo Ruutu had a goal and two assists in the period.
The Hurricanes are hoping to add reigning Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner to that scoring mix soon. The 19-year-old center, who hasn't played since Dec. 7 because of a concussion, was cleared for contact Wednesday.
At the time of his injury, Skinner had a team-leading 12 goals and 24 points.
"If everyone thinks he's ready to go, we'll put him in," coach Kirk Muller said. "I'm not going to put him in unless I get that gut feeling and everyone says he's ready to go."
There's no official word on if Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask will face Muller's club, but it might be Thomas. He's 3-1-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average in his last four games versus Carolina while Rask is 2-1-0 with a 2.59 GAA in four career appearances.
David Krejci will try to help out the Bruins starter by extending his point streak to a career-high 11 games. The center has five goals and 10 assists during the longest run in the NHL this season and appears to be okay after taking an elbow from Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban late in the third period of a 2-1 win Thursday.
He missed the two games against the Hurricanes in October due to a core injury and has four assists over his last five matchups with Carolina.
Claude Julien would like Krejci and his teammates to perform better during the opener of a four-game road trip after the Bruins coach said his squad's play has been "a little bit sloppy" in recent contests.
"Can't say I'm pleased with the way we've been playing lately," Julien said following a 3-1-0 homestand. "You can't just be happy with wins. You've got to be happy with the way you play."
Julien has likely been happier with recent efforts from his team in Raleigh, as the Bruins have won three of four there. Hurricanes starting goaltender Cam Ward, though, has allowed two goals in each of his last three games and a combined three during the two wins over Boston earlier this season.
Carolina backup Justin Peters gave up five goals on 33 shots in his only appearance against Boston last Jan. 17, a 7-0 road loss.
Staal has three goals and 10 assists over his last seven games and is riding a four-game point streak. He has one goal and two assists in his eight games against Boston.