Two teams who believe themselves to be Stanley Cup contenders meet on Friday as the Carolina Hurricanes (10-6-4) travel to TD Garden to face the red-hot Boston Bruins (17-3-0).
The fixture will hold particular significance to the Bruins who are seeking to avenge a first-round playoff defeat to their Eastern Conference rival's last season.
As well as knocking Boston out of the playoffs, Carolina also won all three meetings between the two over the 2021/22 regular season, outscoring their opponents by a massive 16-1.
Boston's seven game defeat to Carolina in last season's playoffs saw coach Bruce Cassidy fired and he was replaced by Jim Montgomery who has instilled a newfound confidence in the veteran side.
In the playoff series, both teams won all their home games, giving Boston the motivation to ensure they earn that privileged position in the current campaign.
The Bruins (+650 to win the Stanley Cup) currently lead the Atlantic Division and all NHL teams in the standings with a .850 points-percentage while the Hurricanes are third in the Metropolitan Division with a .600 points-percentage.
Boston are a perfect 11-0-0 at home and Carolina 6-3-3 on the road this season.
In his second NHL head coaching role (previously Dallas Stars 2018-20), 53-year-old Montgomery is +150 to continue his strong start with the Bruins and win the Presidents' Trophy as the team with the best regular season record.
If he does that, he'll certainly be among the top contenders for the Jack Adams award as coach of the year which he is +800 to win.
Rob Brind'Amour was hired as the Hurricanes' head coach in 2018 and in his first season in charge, guided them to their first playoff appearance in a decade where they were swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final.
Since, he has become the first coach in history to lead Carolina to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons and won the Jack Adams Award in 2020/21, an accolade he is +1800 to achieve again this season.
Brind'Amour, now 52-years-old, was captain of the Hurricanes for nine seasons during his illustrious playing days and led them to the Stanley Cup in 2005/06.
He and the Hurricanes are +1600 to win the Stanley Cup this season and if they do, he will be the first since Toe Blake to both play for and coach the same team to a Stanley Cup and only the third man in NHL history, after Blake and Hap Day, to serve as both a captain and coach of the same Stanley Cup-winning franchise.
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Brind'Amour and the Hurricanes suffered a major blow in the off-season when newly acquired forward Max Pacioretty was ruled out for six months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles.
With Nino Niederreiter and Vincent Trocheck departing in the summer as well, his absence has been strongly felt with the Hurricanes sitting 27th in the NHL for average goals per-game (2.70).
Carolina's 2.70 average goals against ranks a respectable 11th in the league and the combination of the two statistics have seen them involved in many close games, fortunately for them, often falling on the right side of the score line.
The Hurricanes have Martin Necas (23 points; nine goals, 14 assists), Sebastien Aho (22 points; nine goals, 13 assists and Andrei Svechnikov (20 points; 13 goals, seven assists) to thank for the majority of their offence.
Defenceman Brent Burns (13 points; three goals, 10 assists) is the only other Carolina player with more than 10 points with scoring depth a glaring problem at present.
On the other hand, the Bruins have scored the most goals per-game in the NHL (4.05) and conceded the least (2.25), helped by a powerplay firing at an outstanding 30.3 per-cent (3rd in the NHL) and an 85.7 per-cent penalty kill (2nd best).
David Pastrnak, 26, is the major threat sitting joint third in the league for points with 30 which includes 13 goals and 17 assists in 20 games but he isn't the only one with Boston having ten players with ten or more points.
Their offensive depth with be difficult for the Hurricanes to contain, and they will certainly need a significant improvement in their special teams if they are to come out victorious.
Carolina's powerplay ranks 30th in the NHL at 13.5 per-cent and their penalty kill of 79.7 per-cent is 15th.
Both teams are strong on the face-off dot with Boston winning 56.1 per-cent of draws (2nd) and Carolina 54.2 per-cent (4th) and that will be a key battle particularly for the Hurricanes to come out on top to minimise possession on the stick of the super confident Bruins players.
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