Bruins vs. Stars Preview

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Bruins vs. Stars Preview
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins finished their five game home-stand with a mere 2-3-0 record to open the season. Tonight, they are in Dallas to take on the 2-0-3, Pacific Division, Dallas Stars.

The last time these two teams met was back on Nov. 1, 2008 when the Bruins hosted the Stars in a 5-1 victory. However, the win was just a small portion of that game.

It was probably the most exciting and action-packed game of the Bruins' 2008-09 season. A game that had a plethora of fisticuffs—over 150 penalty minutes, and over 100 of those PIM in the third period alone. To take a trip down memory lane, check out the video here .

Will the bad blood carry over into tonight's game? Even without Sean Avery, I'd say, yes. The Stars still have antagonist, Steve Ott, who is sure to have a target on his No. 29 sweater.

Away Team: Boston Bruins (2-3-0)

Who's hot?

No one player really sticks out: However, the fourth line of Byron Bitz, Steve Begin, and Shawn Thornton continue to impress. The trio have been contributing with their heavy-hitting, and as an added bonus, their offense with six points, 26 shots on goal, and a plus three rating combined. Marc Savard is also continuing his point-per-game average with two goals and three assists and 14 shots on net through the first five games, and with each passing game, David Krejci is looking better and better.

Who's not?

This is going to sound like a broken record from the Islanders-Saturday-night-game-preview" target="_blank">New York Islanders preview , but the Bruins special teams. For one, Boston's power play continues to struggle—and that's putting it nicely. Four goals on 29 opportunities with the man advantage. That's 13.8%, landing them 25th overall in the NHL. The B's have also allowed two short handed goals.

The penalty kill has been just as bad, allowing eight goals on 26 chances for the opposing team. That, also, ranks the Black and Gold 25th in the league.

Who to watch for:

Johnny Boychuk. With Dennis Wideman out with an upper body injury, the 2008-09 AHL Eddie Shore winner logged over 17 minutes of ice time in the Bruins 4-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday afternoon.

The 25-year-old also finished the game with a plus one, one shot on goal, and four hits. It's an unfortunate injury to Wideman, but a blessing in disguise for the Bruins fans who haven't seen, or heard, much of the blue-liner. It's only been one game, but he was clearly the best defenseman dressed in black last Monday. His best assets are his shots from the point, and his 6'2" 225 lb. frame—which he uses to his advantage by crushing opponents down low in the corners. Making a full-time spot on the roster for this kid is reaching a necessity.

What to watch for:

New line combinations: This week during practice, coach Claude Julien shuffled the lines up a bit and put Michael Ryder on the first line with Marc Savard and Marco Sturm. While Milan Lucic was moved down to the second line with Blake Wheeler and David Krejci. Also, I use that term "moved down" ever-so-lightly. Whenever you get "moved down" to a line with Krejci as your new center, how bad can that really be?

Playing a full 60-minutes: This is something that the Bruins have been harping on since last season—and it is clearly an issue this season as well. Look for the Bruins to start, and finish, the game with a bit of aggressiveness, and more physical play.

A better "team": For the past two seasons, Julien has taken the Bruins up to Stowe, VT, in a team-bonding trip during the preseason trainings camps. Not this year. With the 2010 Winter Olympics in store for NHL stars, the opening of the season has been early and the games have been crammed in. So I think this road trip—to Dallas and Phoenix—will help the team bond. No more pressures from the media and fans here in Boston; no more going home to their family and friends; and no more monotonous trips to Ristuccia Arena for practices. Now's the time where the Bruins really become accustomed to one another.

Unsung/Under the radar player to watch:

Again, Johnny Boychuk (see above.) My eyes will be glued to No. 55 when he's on the ice tonight. He's played on the power play and penalty kill, and has been paired-up with Matt Hunwick during regular time on the ice.

Line combos & D pairings:

Michael Ryder—Marc Savard—Marco Sturm
Milan Lucic—David Krejci—Blake Wheeler
Chuck Kobasew—Patrice Bergeron—Mark Recchi
Shawn Thornton—Steve Begin—Byron Bitz
Zdeno Chara—Derek Morris
Andrew Ference—Mark Stuart
Matt Hunwick—Johnny Boychuk

Injury Report:

Dennis Wideman: Upper body injury. Did not make the road trip to Dallas, nor will he for the game in Phoenix on Saturday night.

This article was original published on Examiner.com by Mark Marino

For the rest of the Stars/Bruins preview, click here

Also, follow Mark on Twitter and on the Facebook Fan Page

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