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Ducks Take on Desperate Bruins

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Two teams frustrating their fans in entirely different ways face off in Boston tonight.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins are in just about the opposite situation as the Ducks.  While Anaheim is just biding its time, even resting players for the playoffs, Boston is in a tight race to even make it in that seemed highly unlikely as recently as a month ago.

Game Notes:

The main reason for the sudden race is that while the Senators have been riding insanely hot goaltending, Boston has been struggling at exactly the wrong time for their playoff hopes.  Both Ottawa's resurgence, and Boston's struggles just so happened to coincide around the end of last month.  Of course Ottawa's success is highly tied into the emergence of Andrew Hammond, but right around the same time, Boston lost it's number one center in David Krejci to a knee injury.

That doesn't tell the entire story though, because even without Krejci, Boston kept pace for the better part of three weeks, going 8-2-1.  However, things have gone sharply downhill in the last week or so.  They haven't won a game in their last five, going 0-3-2, including regulation losses to Ottawa and Florida, the two teams chasing them for the final wild card spot in the East, and a shootout loss to Buffalo.

On top of that, the Bruins lost Dougie Hamilton in their most recent game, a 5-3 loss to Tampa on Sunday.  So far this season Hamilton has been one of Boston's top defensemen, partially due to Zdeno Chara's injury and partially to age starting to catch up with the massive Slovak.  Hamilton currently leads all Bruins defensemen in scoring (10-32-42), is second overall on the team in point production, third in time on ice per game and leads the team in power play goals.

What can we learn from this game?

The Ducks on the other hand have been frustrating us fans in an entirely different way over the past week. The crux of the matter is that what they're saying to the media doesn't match what they're doing with the lineup.  The only reasonable explanation for sitting three different defensemen in three consecutive games, specifically bringing Clayton Stoner back in against the Rangers and sitting Cam Fowler in Columbus, is a steady rotation of resting one player at a time down the stretch.

We all got excited when Sami Vatanen came back and immediately Stoner went out, but it would appear that was only a coincidence.  That the stars aligning to put together an almost ideal lineup against Colorado on Friday just so happened to coincide with the beginning of a rest rotation, due to the fact that the Ducks are now carrying eight defensemen (including Korbinian Holzer) and at the time there were only 10 games remaining in the season.

The problem comes in that the comments relating to the roster from Boudreau, and especially Cam Fowler are about setting the lineup for the playoffs and needing to improve.  Those are not comments that go along with seemingly random resting of players regardless of performance.  I say regardless of performance because there is really no reason to scratch Fowler, there were certainly other players who should have been in front of him in line based on performance against the Rangers at least.

Also, the idea that Boudreau will have his playoff lineup set by the end of this trip is almost laughable, with the amount he changes things up.  Still if the idea is to evaluate the players and see who should be starting come playoff time, there is no way to really do that if you're icing a different roster with different pairings every night.  I understand that you want a look at everyone, but there are too many moving pieces at this point to make any sort of determination.

If the defense rotation is based on merit to some degree, the only possible choice to scratch tonight would have to be Francois Beauchemin.  He had a nightmare on Tuesday in Columbus, especially on Scot Hartnell's second goal to tie the game at three.  But the way things have been going, it's impossible to tell who will be the odd man out tonight until we hear more from the morning skate.

Fearless Prediction:

We all know Loui Eriksson is going to score, right?