BOSTON -- The Bruins have been struggling of late, but their next two games represent opportunities to snap out of their current funk.
The Predators have posted a 14-4-1 record in their past 19 games and have outscored opponents 59-41 during the stretch. Boston is 4-5-1 in its past 10 games.
“Historically these guys have been doing extremely well,” said Bruins forward Gregory Campbell. “They are one of the most, if not the most, underrated teams in the league. If you look at their record, it doesn’t say that they’re underrated, but they don’t get a lot of coverage and they don’t get the respect around the league they deserve.”
While it appears likely that Tim Thomas will get the start between the pipes for the Bruins, Nashville’s masked man has been spectacular, too.
The Predators’ Pekka Rinne is 14-2-1 with a 1.92 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage since Dec. 28. He’s 20-3-1 in his past 24 games. Overall, he’s 30-12-5 this season.
Rinne posted a franchise-record 11-game win streak from Jan. 7 to Feb. 4, which matched the longest single-season win streak by an NHL goaltender in the past 13 seasons. Rinne joined Patrick Roy (1998-99), Martin Brodeur (who accomplished the feat twice, in 2000-01 and 2005-06), Martin Biron (2005-06) and Marc-Andre Fleury (2010-11).
Erat has 19 points in his past 17 games. Since Jan. 1, Fisher has 17 points, including nine points in the past nine games. Kostitsyn has 15 points in his past 17 games.
Nashville has one of the top pairs of defensemen in the league with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Weber has 28 points (nine goals and 19 assists) in his past 36 games, and he’s third among NHL defensemen in goals (10). He also hasn’t gone more than two games this season without registering a point.
Suter has seven points in his past seven games since returning from injury on Jan. 23.
“Obviously their goaltender is awesome, and their back end and forwards work hard,” Campbell said. “They’re coached well, too.”
It’s actually a positive thing that the Predators are playing so well, in that the Bruins usually bring their A-game when playing against high-caliber opponents. It’s been the non-playoff teams that have given the Bruins a tough time this season.
The Predators are an extremely structured team, much like the Rangers. Both opponents will test Boston’s game and that’s a good thing.
“Given our recent record, I think everybody is excited about the challenge,” Campbell said. “It’s going to be difficult for us. Obviously, we’ve been losing some games here, but fortunately for us, if you want to take a silver lining from all of this is that we haven’t been playing our best. That says, to our team, that we have more to give. I don’t think there’s a better way to resolve our issues than to face a hot team like the Predators and the Rangers.”
If the Bruins can win the next two games, it would be a starting point to return to the way Boston was playing during the months of November and December.