The Boston Bruins have accomplished their primary goal of winning the Northeast Division. Staying healthy for the playoffs is now the main objective for the Bruins, who will rest several key regulars Thursday night against their likely first-round opponent, the Ottawa Senators.
Boston (47-29-4) clinched its third division title in four seasons Sunday with a 2-1 road win over the New York Rangers and is locked into the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Bruins gave No. 1 goaltender Tim Thomas a rest Tuesday in a 5-3 home loss to Pittsburgh as Marty Turco made just 22 saves in his fifth appearance since being signed last month.
"There's a lot to be taken from this game," Turco told the team's official website. "... Even though we went down 5-2 in the third, there was no give up in this bunch."
Turco likely will start again since Thomas, top defenseman Zdeno Chara and first-line center Patrice Bergeron will not make the trip as coach Claude Julien gets his stars some rest ahead of the playoffs. Chara and Bergeron combined for five goals and seven assists versus the Senators this season, while Thomas was 4-1-0 with a 2.41 goals-against average.
Additionally, defenseman Johnny Boychuk will not play after suffering a lower-body injury in the third period Tuesday. He had to be helped off the ice and is day-to-day.
"Those kind of injuries, you have to let the night go by and the next day you get a better idea," Julien said about Boychuk. "We're keeping our fingers crossed that it's not bad news and that's all we can hope for right now."
Ottawa (41-29-10) needs one point in its final two games to wrap up the seventh seed in the East and a first-round date with the Bruins.
The Senators had a four-game winning streak snapped with a 2-1 home loss to Carolina on Tuesday, avoiding the shutout on Jason Spezza's goal with 13 seconds left.
"Most of the games when you're playing from behind the results are not going to be what you like," coach Paul MacLean said. "They were obviously more competitive than we were and I think we got what we deserved."
Spezza has four goals and four assists during a five-game point streak for Ottawa, which totaled 23 goals in its previous four games before Tuesday.
Unlike the Bruins, the Senators enter this matchup fairly healthy, but it is uncertain if goaltender Craig Anderson will be given the chance to beat Boston for the first time in four tries this season. He allowed 14 goals in the first three games between the teams, and Ottawa's lone win in five meetings this season came Feb. 28 when Robin Lehner made 32 saves in a 1-0 victory.
Ben Bishop, however, is currently Ottawa's backup and would be facing the Bruins for the first time if given the start. Anderson has lost five straight starts to Boston since a victory with Colorado on Oct. 12, 2009, and is 3-8-0 with a 3.45 GAA lifetime versus the Bruins.
Erik Karlsson has scored a goal in the last three games versus Boston and is three points shy of becoming the first defenseman with 80 points since Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom did so in 2005-06 en route to winning the Norris Trophy.