NHL

Bruins-Capitals Preview

Avoiding one of the NHL's top scorers certainly played a part in the Boston Bruins continuing their hot stretch.

That's not expected to be the case against another Sunday night.

The Bruins look to continue finding the net early and will try to silence Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in a matchup of teams occupying the Eastern Conference's wild-card spots.

Boston (36-22-10) has put together a 7-0-1 stretch after losing seven of eight, a surge that includes a season high-tying five-game winning streak. The Bruins haven't won six straight since a 12-game run March 2-22 of last year and had a bit of good fortune in their attempt to move closer to it.

Taking on the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Boston didn't have to face Sidney Crosby, who was scratched after warmups for unspecified reasons, and got goals from Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara in a 2-0 victory.

While the Bruins may have felt fortunate avoiding Crosby - Penguins center Evgeni Malkin also exited early with an injury - they'll now have to deal with three-time Hart Trophy winner Ovechkin, who has an NHL-leading 45 goals among his 71 points.

Ovechkin has collected 13 goals and eight assists in the last 15 games, and he scored twice to help Washington (36-23-10) beat Boston 4-0 on Oct. 11.

The Bruins are having some offensive success of their own, scoring the opening goal in 11 straight games (8-2-1). They are 25-7-4 when doing so this season.

"Being able to get that first goal and establish a lead, it takes a lot of pressure off of us," said left winger Lucic, who got the opening tally Saturday and has seven points in his previous seven games.

Lucic has 12 points in 12 career games in Washington, where Boston has claimed six points in its last four visits.

Tuukka Rask, however, is 0-2-3 with a 3.42 goals-against average over five games in the nation's capital. He had 17 saves against the Capitals in October.

That could be reason enough for Niklas Svedberg to face Washington for the first time, but Rask has a 1.22 GAA while winning four straight starts after making 30 saves Saturday.

Washington, tied with Boston in the East, is trying to salvage a 2-3 homestand after falling 3-1 to the New York Rangers on Wednesday and 4-2 to Dallas two days later.

"I think we got away from some basic principles; the mindset of having to compete at a certain level," coach Barry Trotz said. "Our work ethic wasn't where and our focus wasn't where it should be. That, to me, is disappointing.

"The last two games, we played teams that played the night before. They jump over us in the first period. It's not acceptable."

Nicklas Backstrom's 69 points puts him with Ovechkin among the league leaders, but he has none in two games after collecting five over the previous four. The center assisted on both of Ovechkin's goals against the Bruins in October, and he has 18 points in 13 career home matchups - including the postseason.

Braden Holtby should be in net despite making just 18 saves against the Stars. He's compiled a 2.09 GAA while winning five of seven career meetings with Boston, making all 29 saves Oct. 11.

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