Eastern heavyweights collide as Hurricanes host Bruins

Two of the Eastern Conference’s top three teams will become familiar foes down the stretch of the regular season as the Boston Bruins face the Carolina Hurricanes in the first of two meetings in a six-day span on Thursday in Raleigh, N.C.

Boston (44-17-15, 103 points) looks for its third straight win in the finale of a six-game road trip. On Tuesday, a three-goal third period and Linus Ullmark’s 31-save shutout effort led to a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators.

The ability to play tight down the stretch and close out a game will be key as the Bruins move into their final six games before a Stanley Cup playoff run begins.

“We played a full 60 minutes and showed that we don’t get frustrated easily and we stuck with it,” Ullmark said. “We did a great job penalty killing (4-for-4) as well, and obviously a couple clutch goals from (Charlie Coyle) and (Pavel Zacha), so that was really nice.”

Ullmark made 14 of his stops in the third period.

“He had to be down in his crouch, he had to be finding pucks through a lot of traffic and a lot of great plays that they were able to make at times,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said. “He made some saves look easy.”

Coyle — who won Tuesday’s game with his 24th goal and career high-tying 56th point of the season — agrees and knows that the lessons learned in these types of situations will go a long way moving forward.

“Those are playoff-type games where it’s 0-0 or low scoring or whatever it is,” Coyle said. “It’s kind of a battle to see what team will break first. That’s stuff we kind of talk about in between periods and on the bench. There’s always things you can fine-tune throughout the game and we addressed those.”

Carolina (47-21-7, 101 points) has been idle since posting its second straight shutout and improving to 8-1-1 over its last 10 games in a 3-0 road win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

The Hurricanes returned to the ice on Wednesday following a day off from practice.

“You need to be able to show up when you do and go all out. In order to do that, you need to have a little break here and there. It’s hard to do,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Hopefully that gives them a little juice moving forward.”

Sebastian Aho has been the Hurricanes’ offensive leader of late, posting 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) over his last nine games.

After Jordan Staal’s game-winner in the second period against Montreal, Aho scored the Hurricanes’ second goal and assisted on the third.

The tone of the game was similar to that of Boston’s last time out.

“I thought we stayed patient with our game and didn’t get frustrated,” Staal said.

Like their upcoming opponent, the Hurricanes also secured their playoff position last week.

It will be their sixth straight berth, the second such streak in franchise history.

“It’s not getting complacent. It’s not thinking that it’s just going to happen. It’s an everyday process,” Brind’Amour said last week. “It’s that consistent way of doing things and keeping the standard as high as possible. That’s really it.”

Brind’Amour’s group also welcomed a new face with its return to the practice ice as defenseman Scott Morrow signed his three-year, entry-level contract on Tuesday after the conclusion of his junior season at the University of Massachusetts.

–Field Level Media