Bruins-Oilers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 11, 2013
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was seven the last time the Edmonton Oilers beat the Boston Bruins. The 20-year-old Oilers center will try to help end his team's 10-game skid against the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins on Thursday night in Edmonton. The Bruins' surge since early last month is hardly a surprise, but the Oilers' recent outstanding play has been unexpected. Boston (21-8-2) has gone 13-3-1 in its last 17 games, knocking off Calgary 2-1 on Tuesday. The Bruins trailed 1-0 entering the third before David Krejci and Reilly Smith scored as Boston outshot the Flames 15-5 in the final 20 minutes. "We just got back to playing Bruins hockey," Smith told the team's official website. "The first two periods, we got away from it. I think we were making too many hope plays, we weren't trying hard enough to turn the puck over and stick to our game plan. We got back to it in the third and I think that changed our game around." Boston has given up two or fewer goals 13 times in the past 17 contests. Smith has four points in three games while Krejci's goal gave him his ninth point in his last nine contests. He leads the team with 25 points. The win capped Jarome Iginla's return to Calgary, where he spend his first 15-plus seasons. The forward also has fond memories of Edmonton, where he's recorded seven points in his last four games. He has 82 career points against the Oilers, his highest total against any team. Tuukka Rask made 26 saves against the Flames for his 16th win. He's 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average in his career against Edmonton, though his availability for this game is uncertain as he missed practice Wednesday with the flu. After a woeful start, Edmonton (11-18-3) has gone 7-3-1 in its last 11, recording 40 goals in that span. Now it will look to stop an 0-7-3 skid against Boston that began after a 6-1 home victory Oct. 17, 2000. "We are working hard to get out of the hole we created for ourselves and it seems we are on a bit of a run now," said forward Taylor Hall, who has eight points in his last four games. "Now it is time to get two (wins) in a row." The Oilers are 2-1-1 on their five-game homestand after a 5-4 overtime victory over Carolina on Tuesday. Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov each had a goal and an assist, with Eberle scoring the winner. The Oilers won despite blowing a 4-1 second-period lead. Despite the surge, they're still in last place in the West. "I don't expect people to be jumping up and down, if that's our record over the last little bit," coach Dallas Eakins told the team's official website. "The thing that we've done to ourselves is we've put ourselves in such a large hole that even when you are playing well over a stretch, everybody wakes up in the morning ... they look at the standings. "Even a game like tonight when you put two in the bank, the standings still have you where you're at and that's the hole we have to climb out of." Defenseman Jeff Petry could return from a one-game absence due to an upper-body injury. Edmonton defenseman Andrew Ference will face his former team for the first time after spending six-plus seasons in Boston. Ference signed a four-year contract with his hometown team in July.
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