Bruins set for rematch with Cooke, Penguins

 

The last time the Penguins and Bruins met, Boston wound up losing its best offensive player to a concussion after a questionable hit by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke.

 
 
 
 
 

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(Sports Network) - The last time the Penguins and Bruins met, Boston wound up losing its best offensive player to a concussion after a questionable hit by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke.

Cooke is expected to be in the lineup tonight when Pittsburgh visits the Bruins and what should be a hostile crowd at TD Garden.

During Pittsburgh's 2-1 home victory over Boston on March 7, Savard suffered a Grade Two concussion on a blind-side hit to the head by Cooke.

Cooke caught an unsuspecting Savard with a shoulder moments after he released a shot from the high slot. Savard lay motionless for several minutes while being attended to by the medical staff.

There is still no timetable for Savard's return to the ice and the two-time All-Star could miss the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Cooke was not penalized for the play and did not receive a suspension or fine of any kind from the league.

However, Cooke's hit was the main impetus for a proposed rule change that would ban blind-side hits in the NHL. The rule came out of the GM meetings just days after Savard's injury, but is not yet in effect.

The Bruins come into tonight with a serious battle for the playoffs on their hands and they cannot simply be concerned with getting revenge on Cooke. Boston is currently holding on to the eighth and final postseason berth in the East and is just three points ahead of the ninth-seeded New York Rangers.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has dropped into a tie with New Jersey for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Penguins have lost three out of four and are coming off Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the Devils.

Zach Parise and Patrik Elias each posted a goal and one assist as New Jersey completed a six-game regular-season sweep of Pittsburgh with a win at the Prudential Center.

Both the Pens and Devils have 87 points, but by virtue of having one more win than Pittsburgh (42-41), the Devils assumed the second spot in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey is playing in Toronto tonight.

Chris Kunitz and Ruslan Fedotenko scored for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals on 13 shots over 30-plus minutes in the loss. Brent Johnson finished the game by stopping all five shots he faced.

"We had a good idea of what we wanted to do and how to play this game," said Pens head coach Dan Bylsma. "But then halfway through the game they have 12 shots and five of them are breakaways...we made some poor decisions with the puck. I don't think the errors were forced."

Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin missed Wednesday's game after suffering a foot injury while blocking a shot on Sunday. Malkin, who has 69 points this season, is questionable for tonight's game.

Tonight marks the finale of a five-game road trip for the Pens, who have a solid 20-14-2 record as the host this year.

Unlike Pittsburgh, Boston is coming off a victory, pounding the host Carolina Hurricanes, 5-2, on Tuesday. Mark Recchi was one of three Bruins to record a goal and an assist in the big victory for Boston at RBC Center.

Recchi recorded the 560th goal of his career, tying Guy Lafleur for 22nd place on the NHL's all-time list. Joe Nieuwendyk and Mats Sundin are 21st with 564 tallies.

David Krejci and Michael Ryder also added a goal and a helper, while Patrice Bergeron and Johnny Boychuk both scored for the Bruins, who moved three points ahead of the Rangers for the final playoff spot in the East. New York was defeated by Montreal, 3-1, at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

"We competed hard. It was a much-needed win," Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. "We needed our best effort tonight."

Tuukka Rask made 30 saves in the victory for Boston, which finished a seven-game road trip with a 3-3-1 mark.

The Bruins are now home for two straight and are 14-13-6 as the host this season. Boston will host the Rangers Sunday in a key battle for playoff positioning.

Patrice Bergeron suffered a bruised right knee in Tuesday's game, taking a shot off his right leg late in the third period. X-rays taken were negative and the Bruins leading scorer is expected to play tonight.

The Penguins have won two of three meetings with Boston this year and tonight's matchup concludes the season series. Pittsburgh has taken three of four overall from the Bruins, but has lost two straight and three of four in Boston.
 
 
 
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