But overall, the picture is much brighter for Boston as New Jersey visits TD Garden to resume play for the two teams on Thursday night.
The Bruins had won three straight before losing 5-3 on Sunday at Carolina — with the Hurricanes wearing Hartford Whalers uniforms — and are getting healthier heading into the new calendar year.
The Devils had 39 shots on goal but lost 3-0 to Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets the same day, their second loss in three games to that team. New Jersey has lost four of its last five games and is just 3-7-5 in its last 15 while dropping into last place in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins (20-13-4) got Patrice Bergeron back from injured reserve Saturday and Bergeron had two goals, including his 300th, and two assists in a win over the Nashville Predators Saturday before getting blanked at Carolina. He has 30 points in 21 games this season.
Asked about his team getting healthier, and down the road in the playoffs, Boston’s David Backes said, “I’m not going to talk about that, because the second we talk about that, someone else might have an ailment.
“Yeah, it’ll be nice to see where the marbles all lay at the end of it. That’s kind of been our M.O. all year: Wherever you’re inserted, you’ve got to be effective and bring what you can bring and contribute to a team win. We’ve done a decent job of that, and we find ourselves at the Christmas break in a playoff spot.”
The Bruins have won the last six TD Garden games between the teams.
Poor puck handling by Tuukka Rask contributed to Sunday’s loss, and coach Bruce Cassidy criticized his goaltender’s handling of the puck.
Jaroslav Halak, in net for the three-game winning streak, will likely face New Jersey Thursday. He is 12-6-2 with three shutouts, a 2.07 goals-against average and .937 career save percentage against New Jersey. Rask is 6-4-2 with a 1.59 goals-against average against the Devils.
Keith Kincaid, yanked from Sunday’s loss, won his only previous start against Boston, with 39 saves on 40 shots.
In other Devils news, Taylor Hall, the franchise’s first Hart Trophy winner as the league’s MVP, was named New Jersey Sportsperson of the Year by the NJ Advance Media. He beat out New York Giants’ rookie Saquon Barkley, who won the readers’ poll.
Hall led the Devils back into the playoffs last year.
“The playoffs last year, I swear, when the games were in our building, it was amazing,” Hall said “I thought it was louder than (first-round opponent) Tampa for sure. You can tell the excitement in our fan base when we were going on that run, and when we clinched against Toronto last year, it was awesome. You have to get winning in order to feel that though.”
On their website, the Devils point out that Hall has 37 points in 32 games — while he had 36 in his first 36 games last season.
Bruins rookie Urho Vaakanainen, who missed two months with a concussion, is healthy again, but is on loan to the Finnish National Team in the World Junior Championships.
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