Boston (40-19-7) at New Jersey (43-24-2)

  • Game info: 1:00 pm EDT Sun Apr 4, 2004
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The Boston Bruins better get used to East Rutherford, N.J. They might be calling it home for a while.

With two division titles and playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference hinging directly on this game, the Bruins and Devils conclude the regular season.

The Bruins came into this weekend’s home-and-home set with the Devils controlling their own destiny, but Saturday’s 5-2 loss, coupled with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 6-0 win over the Ottawa Senators, has put Boston in a must-win situation if it wants the Northeast Division title and the second seed in the East.

If the Bruins get just one point out of Sunday’s game, Toronto will win the division on a tiebreaker and push Boston down to the fourth seed.

Boston will fall as far as sixth if it loses and the Philadelphia Flyers defeat the New York Islanders on Sunday. The Bruins would then open the playoffs at New Jersey.

To make things even more tense for the Bruins, they probably will have to play this game without leading scorer Joe Thornton.

Speaking to reporters in the Bruins locker room after Saturday’s loss, Thornton refused to give any information about his injury except to repeat the team’s official line of “upper body injury.”

“It’s pretty much the same as it was on Thursday,” he said. ”(I’m) a little concerned. Obviously, you want to go into the playoffs healthy.”

Thornton said he would continue to ice the injury and test it Sunday. He left Thursday’s game against the Washington Capitals after taking a slash to his right wrist and falling hard on the ice. Various reports have said Thornton’s injury is to his wrist or his ribs.

Pressed on whether his arms are part of his upper body, Thornton said, “Anything from my waist up is my upper body.”

The Devils’ scenario is simple. If they beat or tie the Bruins on Sunday, or the Flyers lose in regulation on Long Island, they will win the Atlantic Division and be the third seed in the playoffs. New Jersey holds the first tiebreaker on Philadelphia.

If the Devils lose and the Flyers win, New Jersey will fall all the way to sixth.

“It’s still a big game for us,” Devils forward Scott Gomez said. “It just shows you how crazy this league is. Anything could happen.”

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