No doubt, Penguins will be seeking revenge

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- When the Boston Bruins ousted the Pittsburgh Penguins in a four-game sweep during the Eastern Conference finals last spring, the hockey world was stunned.

Based on Pittsburgh’s talented roster and its success during the regular season, the Penguins were favored to beat the Bruins and advance to the Stanley Cup finals.

Instead, the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held pointless, and the Bruins dominated the entire series.

The Bruins and Penguins are two of the top teams in the conference once again, and will face each other for the first time since last spring when puck drops Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

Crosby is potent as ever in the early portion of the 2013-2014 season. He enters Monday’s game at the Carolina Hurricanes with eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points in 11 games. Pittsburgh, however, has lost three straight games. In the midst of the losing skid, and the fact they’re facing the Bruins, the Penguins should be more than ready to get back on track and avenge their playoff loss.

“That’s always going to enter your mind, but it’s not up to us, it’s up to them how they approach that game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “More than that, they’ve lost three in a row and they’re going to want to bounce back. Depends on which approach they want to take, the fact they want to bounce back from three losses, or the fact they were swept out last year. If they take both, then we’ve got a team that's extremely ready for us. We lost our last game and we need to be better and we need to bounce. I have a feeling it’s going to be an interesting game to watch.”

Entering the conference finals last June, the Bruins were motivated by more than just their second trip to the Cup finals in a three-year span. They wanted to prove to Jarome Iginla that he made the wrong decision by choosing Pittsburgh over Boston at the trade deadline.

“Honestly, you’re in a conference finals and I think you want to win anyway because you want to get to the Stanley Cup finals,” Iginla said, who signed with Boston as a free agent during the summer. “Yeah, there’s probably that fuel, but honestly, you’re that close to winning a Stanley Cup and ultimately winning. That’s fire enough.”

Now that Iginla is a member of Boston’s top line and has helped the Bruins to a 7-3-0 start, his new teammates have forgotten all about last season.

“I don’t think we’ll talk about it,” said Bruins center David Krejci. “Obviously, we know what happened. He knows what happened, so there’s no need to bring that up. Right now everybody starts from 0-0 and only time will tell if you made the right decision.”

The past is the past and the Bruins want to focus on the present. Boston is coming off a difficult loss as they surrendered a three-goal lead to the New Jersey Devils and lost 4-3 Saturday at the Garden. The Bruins practiced Monday and will travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning in preparation for Wednesday’s Eastern Conference finals rematch.

“It’s a game we want to win,” Iginla said. “I don’t view it as anything extreme. They’re a top team in the conference and we would like to get back to winning. It’s going to be a good challenge.

“We both want to be the top team in the conference. We know there are other good teams, too, but this is a good challenge. Whenever you play in the playoffs and one team’s season ends, it adds more fuel to the fire for the next couple of years and there are reasons to not like the other team. I’m sure it’ll be a good rivalry.”

The line of Milan Lucic, Krejci and Iginla are off to a strong start, combining for 21 points in the first 10 games.

“For us, it’s just another game,” Krejci said. “We know we’re playing against a good team. It’s a good challenge for us, but it’s just another game.”

It’s possible the Bruins and the Penguins could have a postseason rematch next spring.

“They’ve got that core there -- Malkin and Crosby. They’ve been there for a long time and I’m pretty sure they’ll be there for a few more years and they’re always going to be playing on top of the leader board. That’s what we can expect from them,” Krejci said. “We know what they’ve got up front, but if we play the way we can play, we can beat anybody.”