The NHL's two best regular season teams collide on Sunday when the Carolina Hurricanes host the Boston Bruins.
|What||Boston Bruins @ Carolina Hurricanes|
|Where||PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC|
|When||UK: 22:00, Sunday 29th January|
|How to watch||NHL.com|
|Odds||Boston Bruins 23/20, Carolina Hurricanes 20/27|
Boston (38-6-5) lead the NHL standings with 81 points with Carolina (31-9-8) 11 points behind.
The fixture will be the Bruins' fourth in a five-game road swing during which they have so far taken three points from six, taking their away record to 16-5-2.
The resilient Hurricanes are 15-5-2 at home after beating the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in a remarkable game last time out.
Top-scorer Martin Necas (21 goals, 23 assists) tied the game with 12 seconds remaining before scoring 55 seconds into overtime to record a fourth win in a row for Carolina and extend their point streak to seven games (6-0-1).
The Bruins are enjoying a historic season and recently became the quickest ever NHL team to reach 80 points, doing so in 47 games which surpassed the 1943 Montreal Canadiens and 1979/80 Philadelphia Flyers who accomplished it in 49 games.
The Bruins are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games and have won seven of their last nine road games.
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Everything about Boston's campaign has been impressive so far. They have averaged the most goals in the league (3.76), conceded the least (2.08), have the fourth highest powerplay (26.2%) and the best penalty kill (86.5%)
Czech forward David Pastrnak is their leading goal and point scorer. His 71 points is fourth overall in the NHL and his 38 goals is second, both to Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid.
The 26-year-old All-Star is 16/1 to beat McDavid (2/11) to the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player.
The Hurricanes' run of good form comes despite the news that forward Max Pacioretty will miss the rest of the campaign.
The 34-year-old has suffered terrible luck since being acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in the off-season to bolster the Hurricanes' attack.
Before he could make his Carolina debut, Pacioretty tore his Achilles but recovered to take to the ice five times and score three goals.
Sadly, his impact was short-lived as he suffered the exact same injury again in a game against Minnesota Wild which has ruled him out for the season.
Carolina have done well overall in his absence, averaging 3.25 goals per game (12th) with Necas, Sebastian Aho (20 goals, 23 assists) and All-Star Svechnikov (19 goals, 20 assists) leading the way.
The Hurricanes' success has mainly been built on defence, though, conceding just 2.67 average goals per game (sixth).
That record is even more impressive given that goalies Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta and Pyotr Kochetkov have all missed games or been hampered during games by various injuries this season.
A major struggle for the Hurricanes, though, has been on the powerplay where they rank 25th in the league firing at just 18.6%. However, their penalty kill has been strong at 81.2% (ninth) and that will have to continue if they are to be victorious against the Bruins and their outstanding special teams.
In contrast to Carolina's uncertainty in goal, the Bruins have enjoyed the most consistent netminding in the NHL with Linus Ullmark leading all goalies with 25 wins from 31 games, a .937 save percentage and 1.86 goals against average.
He is the quickest goalie to reach 25 wins in NHL history, and is 4/7 to be awarded the Vezina Trophy as Goalie of the Year.
The Bruins won the first meeting between the two this season in late November at TD Garden.
Carolina went 2/6 on the powerplay to take a 2-0 lead in the first period. However, Boston fought back with two goals from David Krejci and an overtime winner on the powerplay (1/6) from Pastrnak.
The victory set an NHL record for consecutive wins on home ice to start a season for the Bruins, which was 12 and ended at 14.
Carolina will be thankful to have the home ice advantage this time around and will want to prove their Stanley Cup credentials with a statement victory.
The Hurricanes knocked the Bruins out of the playoffs at the first-round stage in seven games last season, and home ice was crucial with each winning every game at home and losing each on the road.
Carolina are 17/2 to win the Stanley Cup this season which would be their second in franchise history and first since 2006. The Bruins are 5/1 which would be their seventh and first since 2011.