Bruins ready for elements, NHL Winter Classic
Boston to try for 1st win this season against Flyers at historic Fenway Park
The temperature is just one thing on the rise in Boston.
The Bruins, who host the streaking Philadelphia Flyers in Friday's NHL Winter Classic (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 1 p.m. ET), are now within five points of Buffalo for top spot in the Northeast Division.
Boston enters the Eastern Conference matchup at historic Fenway Park with four victories in its past five starts, including two shutouts — the most recent an 18-save performance by Tuukka Rask in Wednesday's 4-0 handling of Atlanta.
The Flyers, who appeared headed towards the bottom of the conference standings not long ago, have reeled off four consecutive wins under new head coach Peter Laviolette to climb into eighth spot, just seven points behind the Bruins.
"We need to start thinking about [Friday] as a business day, as a two-point game," Boston head coach Claude Julien told reporters on Thursday. "We've got to come here prepared and knowing what's at stake."
Much of the talk in recent days has been about the weather, which could become a factor as the game progresses. There is a 50 per cent chance of light snow or rain, with a high of about 2 C.
The game would be considered official after two periods of play. Should a makeup date be necessary, the game would be rescheduled for Saturday.
Snow fell throughout the Winter Classic two years ago, slowing down the play in Buffalo, where nearly 72,000 crammed into the seats at Ralph Wilson Stadium to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins edge the Sabres 2-1 in a shootout.
A year ago, a near-perfect day greeted the hometown Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit at Wrigley Field, in a game won by the Red Wings 6-4.
The NHL's first foray outdoors in recent memory was the Heritage Classic in Edmonton on Nov. 22, 2003. Over 57,000 endured frigid temperatures at Commonwealth Stadium to watch the Montreal Canadiens beat the Oilers 4-3.
Despite the elements on Friday, Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara said nothing less than an "up-tempo" contest against the Flyers will be acceptable for this year's showcase.
"I don't think there's going to be any holdbacks," said the six-foot-nine rearguard. "There is two points to be playing for, and both teams are coming off shutout wins [on Wednesday]."
Against Atlanta, Rask posted his second shutout of the season and blanked the team that was tied for second in goals per game with 3.2. The 18 shots against were the fewest allowed by Boston this season.
Rask boasts a 10-3-2 record as the backup to Tim Thomas, who is expected to start Friday.
Thomas is 10-9-5 this season with a 2.42 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
Leighton on a roll in net
Bruins centre Marc Savard has suffered no ill effects since his return from a broken left foot, recording a goal and eight points in five outings.
He'll be shooting against one of the NHL's top goalies of late in Michael Leighton, who has earned four straight wins with a 1.50 GAA after Philadelphia plucked him off waivers from Carolina on Dec. 5 to cover for the injured Ray Emery.
"I think players are just playing a little looser," Laviolette said in reference to the Flyers' improved play. "Just go out and play hard and have fun and I feel we're starting to do that."
The players did just that during Thursday's workout as forwards Jeff Carter and Riley Cote tossed snowballs at teammate Scott Hartnell.
Philadelphia took the first two meetings of the season with the Bruins, ending a 1-7 slide on Dec. 14 with a 3-1 triumph at Boston's TD Garden.