Struggling with consistency, the Boston Bruins will face a tough one-two punch today and Monday.
Today it's a Stanley Cup Final rematch as the Bruins visit Chicago at 12:30 p.m. in a nationally televised game (NBC). On Monday it's a 3 p.m. matinee with the Los Angeles Kings and their roster of former Manchester Monarchs, including rising star goalie Martin Jones.
"Every year we go through this. Every year (in the) middle of the season, we seem to go through a struggle, and we work our way out of it," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien after Tuesday's loss to Toronto. "We're sitting here, and we're talking about our team, but there's not a single team in this league that doesn't go through this. It's not about being negative here, it's about working our way out of it."
Boston responded with a better showing Thursday night, beating Dallas 4-2 on the road. While the power play showed some signs of life with a PPG goal from Milan Lucic, the penalty kill unit allowed yet another extra-man goal.
The good news for Boston is that the Blackhawks is mired in a struggle of its own. Chicago is 1-4 in its last five (Anaheim Friday).
This is the first meeting between the teams since Chicago stunned the Bruins with two goals in the final two minutes of Game Six to win the Cup.
Monday's game has some intriguing aspects to it, first and foremost, will Jones start in net in Boston where a good number of Monarchs fans are likely to be in attendance? Jonathan Quick had played six games in a row heading into Saturday's game against Detroit, which means Jones should be in line for a start soon. The Kings' management didn't trade away Ben Scrivens and call Jones up for him to sit too long.
Quick has always been a workhorse and remains the clear No. 1, but Jones played so well (going 8-3-0 with three shutouts) that he chased Scrivens out of town.
Having Jones spell Quick more often than other backups have given Quick the night off in past years will mean a fresher Quick come playoff time and a sharper Jones if Quick was to go down again.
Aside from between the pipes, where it will be a former Monarch either way, there are plenty of other former Manchester players to watch for, including the most recent call-up.
Forward Linden Vey was summoned from the Monarchs this past week, replacing Tyler Toffoli, who had played himself into Kings coach Darryl Sutter's doghouse with a lack of production recently.
It's not out of the bounds of reality to call this a potential Stanley Cup Final preview.
Pittsburgh and San Jose might beg to differ, but it doesn't take away from what should be an entertaining way to spend the afternoon.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.