The Boston Bruins are seeking their second four-game win streak of the season, and the aspects that led to the first one are quite visible again heading into Thursday night's game against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.
The reigning Eastern Conference champions strung together four wins Oct. 17-24, outscoring opponents 15-5 while killing off 8 of 9 penalties. After a 3-0 win Monday over Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay in which Tuukka Rask made 28 saves, Boston (11-5-1) has amassed a 10-2 scoring advantage in winning its last three and successfully thwarted all 11 of its opponents' power-play chances.
"It's kind of becoming expected out of him, so it's a regular thing," defenseman Matt Bartkowski told the team's official website. "It's important not to forget about what he does. In my mind, he's the best goalie in the league, and he shows that game in game out."
Columbus (6-10-1) has seen that game-in, game-out effort from Rask first-hand, losing four straight to the Bruins when he is between the pipes. Rask has a 1.14 goals-against average in that span and had a 26-save effort in the most recent meeting, a 3-1 win at Columbus on Oct. 12.
The Bruins are 3-0-1 entering the final contest of a five-game homestand. They have gotten at least one point in five straight home games (4-0-1), killing off all 18 penalties.
"If we can finish on a good note here, it'll certainly send us on the road with some confidence," coach Claude Julien said. "We know we have some tough games coming up with back-to-back games in Carolina and New York (Rangers), so we just have to take advantage of what's important for us. If we can win, it'll be nine of 10 points and a successful homestand."
Defenseman Adam McQuaid is day to day with a lower-body injury that kept him out Monday.
The Blue Jackets failed to post consecutive wins for the third time this season Tuesday when they settled for one point in a 4-3 overtime loss at Washington.
Columbus overcame a 2-1 third-period deficit on goals by Jared Boll and Cam Atkinson, only to allow Mikhail Grabovski to net the equalizer with 1:45 left in regulation before Alexander Ovechkin scored 94 seconds into the extra period.
"We had a lead with three minutes to go in the game and a chance to get two points against a divisional team," coach Todd Richards said. "Right now it's really a disappointing, deflating feeling just because of how it ended."
At issue for Richards is a power play that has failed to generate a goal in its last three road games, going 0 for 10. Columbus has allowed 19 goals in dropping five straight on the road.
Brandon Dubinsky has two goals and five assists in a four-game point streak for the Blue Jackets, but he has registered just one assist in his last five versus the Bruins. Atkinson, who shares the team lead along with Dubinsky and two other players with five goals, has scored in each of the previous two contests.
Columbus has not beaten Boston since a 3-2 road victory Jan. 21, 2010.