|Bruins add Olympian Donato ahead of game with Blue Jackets|
BOSTON -- The short-handed Boston Bruins continue nipping at the heels of the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning.
And Sunday, the Bruins, who host the sizzling Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night, added some potential help for the stretch run by signing Harvard star and U.S. Olympian Ryan Donato.
"We have some injuries, we're at the point in the season where every game has a lot on the line," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Sunday night, "and I think his being able to go over and have success at the Olympics this year really started to jump-start his thought process that he was ready for the next challenge."
Donato is expected to join the lineup for Monday's game as the Bruins, who trail the Lightning by four points with two games in hand as they try to snap the Blue Jackets' seven-game winning streak.
The Bruins, playing without Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk and losing David Backes in the first period, handed the Lightning their first shutout loss of the season on Saturday night in Tampa -- and now try to end the Jackets' seven-game winning streak.
"We take it as a challenge," Torey Krug, who assisted on all three Bruins goals in Saturday's 3-0 win, said after the game. "When a coach sees something slipping and brings it to our attention, it's definitely a challenge, especially when we're missing some of the power on the back end (Chara and McAvoy) and couple of great defensive forwards (Bergeron and Backes) as well.
"It's definitely a big challenge from the coaching staff, coming into a tough building, against a top offensive team in the league.
"We did a great a job (Saturday) and it's definitely gratifying. It doesn't stop there. It's just another step in the right direction. We have to refocus for the next game."
Bergeron went down with a broken foot and the Bruins have gone 8-2-0 without their team leader. They have been without McAvoy (knee) and Chara and DeBrusk (both upper body).
Backes served a three-game suspension during this run, then was ejected for a head hit his first game back, and then Saturday night suffered a knee laceration from a skate blade that KO'd him and required 18 stitches.
Backes escaped structural damage and shouldn't be out long term. Remember, this is a guy who was supposed to be out two months after having part of his colon removed and missed half that time. But it appears that he'll miss at least two games.
A Bruins win Monday night would pull them within two points of the Lightning in points. The teams still have two games remaining against each other -- and Boston won the first two.
The Jackets, in the midst of a wild scramble for an Eastern Conference playoff spot, got by the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night without Seth Jones, the key defenseman missing his first game of the season with an upper-body injury.
According to The Athletic, Jones accompanied the team to Boston for the start of a two-game back-to-back trip (at the New York Rangers on Tuesday night), but there was no word on whether he will play Monday.
Sergei Bobrovsky ripped off his fifth straight win in goal for the Jackets on Saturday. Columbus has allowed 15 goals in the seven-game run.
After Saturday's game, coach John Tortorella said, "It's another one-goal game. You hope they start feeling comfortable. That was the most comfortable we have looked protecting a lead in the third period. We didn't give them much."
Boston has taken three of a possible four points from the Blue Jackets this season, dropping a 4-3 shootout decision on Oct. 30 in Columbus and hammering the Jackets 7-2 on Dec. 18 in Boston.
Tuukka Rask, who pitched his third shutout of the season and the 41st of his career, is 8-3-1 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Bobrovsky has struggled against Boston, going just 2-5-2 with 3.70/.895 numbers, and backup Joonas Korpisalo is 1-0-2 with 2.59/.915.
Monday's game is the Bruins' only home affair in a nine-game stretch -- they went 2-2-0 on the just-completed four-game trip and head right back out for four more on the road after this game.
Thanks to a deal at the trade deadline, Boston will see an old nemesis in Thomas Vanek, who has 33 goals, 15 of them on the power play, and 68 points in 63 career games against the Bruins. Vanek has two goals (both in one game) and three assists in nine games with the Blue Jackets.