Boston vs Columbus Preview: Bruins “have to be ready” for Blue Jackets

Patrice Bergeron and the Boston Bruins return from the NHL's Holiday Break by facing off against the Columbus Blue Jackets who own the League's best record. (photo: nhl.com)

It is probably a safe bet that when the Boston Bruins filled out their Christmas wish lists, they did not ask Santa to deliver a game against the team with the best record in the National Hockey League when the season resumes after the holiday break but that is exactly what he left under their trees.

The Bruins return to action Tuesday night against the Pitts…no, not them. The Chi…no, not them, believe it or not, Boston will face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus (7:00 pm ET; NESN, FS-O, FS-Go).

In case you missed it, the Blue Jackets at 23-5-4 have the best record in the NHL.

Yes, Columbus is atop the League and comes into the game riding a 12-game win streak.

Columbus is undefeated in the month of December defeating such teams as Montreal, Pittsburgh, and Edmonton.

The Blue Jackets own a one-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL’s Metropolitan Division.

“Christmas is over,” said Blue Jackets’ coach John Tortorella after his club skated Tuesday morning. “It’s time to go back to work.”

Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (21-5-0) has become a leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy. He leads the League with 21 wins and enters tonight’s game with a 1.87 goals against average (tied for 2nd in the League) and a .935 save percentage (2nd best in the NHL).

The Blue Jackets are led in points by Cam Atkinson. The Boston College alum stands seventh in the NHL’s points race with 35 points on 15 goals and 20 assists. Atkinson leads the League with 17 power play points. He enters the contest versus Boston on a nine-game point streak (7 goals, 7 assists, 14 points).

Alexander Wennberg, who at 22 years of age is in his fourth year with the Blue Jackets, has registered six goals and 23 assists for a total of 29 points. He stands eighth in the NHL with 14 power play points.

Brandon Saad is third on the team with 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists). The native of Pittsburgh, PA is in his sixth NHL season and has posted 96 career goals. He has garnered five goals and one assist totaling six points in his last five games.

On the blueline, first-year defenseman Zach Werenski is fifth among all NHL rookies with 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists). His assist total is tied for second in NHL rookie scoring and his plus-7 ranks him third in that category among his first-year peers. The 19-year-old native of Grosse Pointe, Michigan has produced 11 points on the power play.

The Bruins are currently third in the Atlantic Division with an 18-14-4 record. They trail second-place Ottawa by three points and hold a three-point lead over fourth-place Tampa Bay.

Goaltender Tuukka Rask has been Boston’s best player this season. He owns a 17-6-0 record and has been between the pipes for all but one of the Bruins’ wins. Rask’s 17 victories is fifth-best in the NHL. His .930 save percentage also places him fifth in the circuit while his 1.87 goals against average is second in the League. Rask’s four shutouts rank second among puck stoppers.

Brad Marchand continues to lead Boston’s point producers with 29 points on 10 goals and 19 assists. He is 21st among the NHL’s scorers. The 28-year-old has registered 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) in Boston’s 18 wins. Three of those six goals have been game-winners.

David Pastrnak has been Boston’s go-to guy offensively this year. The 20-year-old is tied for second in the NHL with Patrik Laine (Winnipeg) and Jeff Carter (Los Angeles) with 19 goals. He trails Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby who leads the League with 24 goals. Pastrnak enjoys road trips as his 11 goals away from TD Garden attests. The native of Havirov, Czech Republic has added seven assists to give him 26 points on the season. He leads Boston with a plus-14. In two games versus Columbus this season, Pastrnak has lit the lamp twice.

After a slow start to his season due to offseason hip surgery, David Krejci has found his game and is third in team scoring with 20 points (6 goals, 14 assists). The 10-year veteran begins the post-break with 492 career NHL points. At the faceoff dot, Krejci has won 51.7 percent of his faceoffs this year.

The Boston defense corps has seen more than its share of injuries this season. The one blueliner who has been able to avoid the injury bug, Torey Krug, has appeared in all 36 games and has seen an increase in his responsibilities beginning with time on ice. He is third on the team with 21:51 time on ice per game. At 21.7 shifts per game, Krug is at the head of that category. The native of Livonia, Michigan has lit the lamp once this season but his 17 assists are second to Marchand’s 19 assists. Krug is fourth on the Bruins with 18 points and leads the club with seven power play points. He has four points (assists) in his last two games played.

“We’re playing a team that, right now, is firing on all cylinders,” Boston head coach Claude Julien said after his team’s morning skate in Columbus. “When you play a team like that, you know you have to be ready to play one of your better games.”

Ice Shavings

Boston is 2-0-0 vs Columbus this season.

Only Boston and San Jose have defeated Columbus in regulation time this year.

Despite scoring just 83 goals (23rd in the NHL), Boston has four players (Patrice Bergeron, Krug, Marchand, Pastrnak) with 100-plus shots on goal each.

Boston is 10th in the League with 86 goals against.

Columbus has seven players with 20-plus points on the season.

Columbus is third in the League with 108 goals scored. They are first in goals against in the NHL having given up just 64 goals to opponents.

The Blue Jackets have three players in the top eight in the NHL’s plus/minus department. Defenseman David Savard is second in the NHL with a plus-23. Teammate Jack johnson is fifth at plus-20 and Saad is eighth with a plus-17.

The Blue Jackets have the League’s number one power play. It has converted on 26.9 percent of its man-advantages. The Bruins power play is ranked 28th with a 13.9 percent success rate.

Boston has the third-best penalty kill in the NHL. They have successfully killed 87.3 percent of their penalties. Columbus penalty killers are ranked 12th at 82.2 percent.

Bobrovsky is 0-4-2 with a 3.59 goals against average and a .896 save percentage for his career versus Boston.

Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.

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