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PREVIEW: Inspired Boston Bruins set to face struggling New Jersey Devils

Mar 5, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; The Boston Bruins celebrate after a goal by left wing Brad Marchand (63) against Washington Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek (41) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; The Boston Bruins celebrate after a goal by left wing Brad Marchand (63) against Washington Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek (41) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Things were looking up for the New Jersey Devils the last time they visited the Boston Bruins on Feb. 18.

The Devils won 3-2 that day, their third straight victory and sixth in their first 11 games to begin the season.

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Since then, it has been nothing but hard times for New Jersey, which returns to Boston on Sunday mired in a five game-losing streak. The Devils have lost eight of their last nine overall and will play the contest as the tail end of a back-to-back after losing 6-3 to the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon.

“We probably played our worst defensive game of the year. Guys skated by us,” head coach Lindy Ruff said after Saturday’s defeat. “Our puck play was horrendous. You play like that, you’re not going to win hockey games.”

The Bruins have had their own share of struggles of late, with a 3-4-1 record in their last eight games — including the setback against the Devils last month.

But Boston enters Sunday fired up after a contentious matchup with the Washington Capitals on Friday. After defenseman Brandon Carlo’s head was slammed into the glass by Capitals enforcer Tom Wilson late in the first period, requiring Carlo to be hospitalized, the Bruins responded with a three-goal second period in an eventual 5-1 rout.

“As a team, we played the right way after that,” said forward Brad Marchand, who had two goals and an assist to extend his points streak to four. “We didn’t let it distract us or get us down. Obviously, we were thinking about Brando all game, but we did the job and took care of business on the ice.”

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Carlo was released from the hospital Saturday morning and returned home to rest, according to coach Bruce Cassidy. Also absent from practice was captain Patrice Bergeron, who was believed to have received a maintenance day.

Despite the Devils’ current skid, Cassidy isn’t sleeping on them — with good reason. New Jersey is 2-0-1 versus Boston this season.

“Every game was close. The last one up here we really had to rally to make it close,” Cassidy said. ” … Hopefully we’re better prepared mentally to understand they’re a better team than they were a year ago and be ready to play our game and play it well.”

After falling behind 2-0 early against the Rangers on Saturday, the Devils tied the score on goals from P.K. Subban and Mikhail Maltsev 17 seconds apart late in the first period. But New York scored the game’s next three goals to pull away, extending New Jersey’s woes.

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“In some ways, I think we sometimes put ourselves in tough positions, but it’s part of the learning process. For us to get out of this funk we’re in right now, details are so important,” Subban said. “Teams are getting better as the season goes on. We have to realize that and improve our game.”

Each of the Devils’ last six losses came at home. The team now embarks on a three-game road trip that also includes stops at Washington and New York to face the Islanders.

-Field Level Media