With the lockout-shortened season winding down and playoff races heating up, the condensed schedule is beginning to take its toll on the Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets.
Neither team will be getting much of a break anytime soon, either.
Boston looks to avoid a third consecutive road loss Tuesday night by earning a third straight win over Winnipeg, which begins a four-game homestand.
The Bruins and Jets capped stretches of playing three games in four days with losses Sunday, as both teams cited fatigue.
Boston (19-5-3) had won five of six before falling 2-1 at Pittsburgh. The Bruins outshot the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins 32-18, but couldn't muster more than Tyler Seguin's first-period goal.
"I'm not disappointed in our effort," coach Claude Julien said. "It's our third game in four days. I thought we competed hard, I thought we had a chance to win."
Boston is one point behind rival Montreal for the Northeast Division lead and just three behind Pittsburgh, but it has a difficult road ahead. The Bruins, who opened a four-game road trip Sunday, play their next five contests against teams currently in playoff position. That stretch ends March 27 at home versus the Canadiens.
"It's a bit of a grueling schedule right now, but at the same time, you've got to find a way to come through and continue to battle," said Brad Marchand, who has a team-high 12 goals but none in the past seven games. "Every point matters."
The same goes for the Jets (15-12-2), who are involved in a tight race for the Southeast Division lead with Carolina. They went 5-0-1 over their previous six before falling 4-1 at Ottawa on Sunday, allowing two power-play goals after killing all 28 penalties over their previous 11 contests.
"I think the fact we played three games in four days and not really playing with enough of four lines really caught up with us," coach Claude Noel said. "I can't fault the players for their effort. (Fatigue) was a factor, no doubt."
Defenseman Zach Bogosian scored the lone goal for Winnipeg, which now begins another stretch of three games in four nights. After facing Boston, it hosts Washington on Thursday and Friday before ending their homestand versus Tampa Bay on Sunday.
"We need to make sure we're ready to play right away," Bogosian said. "We can't get down on ourselves. We've been playing good hockey as of late and we just need to make sure we're ready for the next game."
Bogosian also lauded the effort of Ondrej Pavelec, who made 38 saves Sunday. He had gone 4-0-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average prior to that defeat, though it's unclear if he'll be in net again Tuesday.
"He keeps us in it every game," Bogosian said. "He battles back there and it seems like every year he's getting better and better. He's what's driving our team right now."
Pavelec has a 1.94 GAA in two matchups with Boston this season but lost both, 2-1 in a shootout Jan. 21 and 3-2 on Feb. 17. Marchand scored the game-winner in the third period of that last meeting and also had a goal in the first one.
Tuukka Rask, whose 1.92 GAA is among the league leaders, opposed Pavelec in each matchup and improved to 7-3-0 with a 2.08 in 10 career starts versus the Winnipeg franchise.
Boston, which may be without forward David Krejci after he left Sunday's loss with an apparent lower-body injury, has won 16 of the last 20 meetings.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved