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BIG NHL Pick: Boston Bruins vs San Jose Sharks (3/22/12)

The Boston Bruins’ latest performance would seem to indicate their recent struggles are over. A visit to the slumping San Jose Sharks could give them more confidence going forward.

The Bruins will seek to maintain their lead in the Northeast Division while dealing a blow to the Sharks’ playoff hopes Thursday night.

Boston snapped a season-high, four-game skid with a 3-2 shootout win over Philadelphia on Saturday, but it was Monday’s home game against Toronto that showed the Bruins might have returned to their high-scoring ways.

After totaling seven goals over its previous four games, Boston (42-27-3) scored four times in the first 13 minutes against the Maple Leafs and tallied another three goals in the second period of its 8-0 rout. Tim Thomas needed to make only 13 saves while posting his fifth shutout of the season.

Veteran forward Brian Rolston matched his career high for points with one goal and three assists, and Benoit Pouliot had two goals and an assist.

Boston will try to carry that momentum into a three-game trip through California that begins against the Sharks (36-27-10), who have dropped back-to-back games following their only win streak in nearly two months.

The Bruins went winless during their most recent road trip to Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Florida.

San Jose, 5-10-4 in its last 19 games, gave up five goals for the second straight night Tuesday against Los Angeles. Martin Havlat scored and assisted on Dan Boyle’s goal while helping San Jose cut its deficit to one early in the third period.

The Kings, though, tallied a late goal and an empty-netter to secure a 5-2 win. The result dropped the Sharks into a tie for 10th in the Western Conference with nine games remaining.

Havlat recorded an assist, and Joe Pavelski had two points during a 4-2 victory in Boston on Oct. 22. The Sharks have won consecutive games in the series but they haven’t beaten the Bruins at home since March 21, 2003.

San Jose is also 2-3-1 in its six games this month at the HP Pavilion. Boston has won 2-1 in each of its past two visits there, with the previous victory coming via shootout on Jan. 14, 2010.

Daniel Paille scored the lone goal in regulation during that game and is expected to be play despite taking a shot to the knee from teammate Zdeno Chara late in Monday’s win. Chara is set to appear in his 999th career game Thursday.

Rich Peverley, who hasn’t played since Feb. 15 because of a sprained MCL in his right knee, will likely accompany the team on the trip, but Nathan Horton (concussion) is expected to remain in Boston.


Boston Bruins – Tim Thomas

San Jose Sharks – Antti Niemi


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