Around the NHL: Bruins earn their break
The Boston Bruins headed into their bye week on an 8-0-3 streak. They’re neck and neck with the Leafs for second in the Atlantic Division, having overcome a 6-7-4 start and firsthalf injuries to key players like David Krejci (18 games), David Backes (17), Brad Marchand (eight) and Patrice Bergeron (five). “We really came together the last month-and-a-half and showed the type of team we can be,” Marchand said. “We had a lot of growing pains early on, and some injuries. I think we kind of expected that to be the case — not so much the injury bug, but a lot of young guys and new guys on the team. You need time to come together. We’ve really done that.” OPTIMUS REIM: Former Leafs goalie James Reimer has thrived in Florida with Roberto Luongo out of the lineup. Reimer is 7-5-2 in the 14 games since Luongo got hurt, posting a .930 save percentage (fourth-best in the league) and 2.42 goals-against average (sixth-best) during that span. Luongo is expected to return to duty in early February, but “that could change any day,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “We’re sort of taking it day by day.”
MERRY JANUARY: Penguins captain Sidney Crosby isn’t complaining about a vacation, but he noted the Penguins’ break this season comes just a few weeks after the team had three days off for Christmas. “You don’t necessarily need it this soon, but it is what it is,” Crosby said. “We have a big stretch coming up after that. To get rest knowing what’s ahead, it’s not going to hurt us. That’s something we can take advantage of.” After the break, the Penguins will play seven games in 13 days, including a three-game West Coast swing, before having three more days off for the all-star break at the end of the month. LIGHTNING STRIKE: After a season in which everything seemed to go wrong for the Tampa Bay Lightning everything seems to be going right this year. The Lightning are 30-9-3, in first place in the Eastern Conference by a comfortable margin. No.1 goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is a Vezina Trophy favourite. Nikita Kucherov leads the league in scoring and is tied for the lead in goals. Steven Stamkos has enjoyed a bounce-back season. But the team isn’t taking anything for granted. “We can sit here and say, ‘Yeah, if the playoff started today, we’re in,’ ” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “But you’ve got to be battleready when that comes. And I’m not so sure we’re there right yet.”
STATS PACK: The Columbus Blue Jackets lead the NHL with 11 wins beyond regulation, six in overtime, five in the shootout . . . The Golden Knights are 14-1-1 in their last 16 contests . . . The Capitals’ nine-game home win streak is the longest in the NHL this season . . . Alex Ovechkin (27 goals heading into Tuesday’s game) should become the third player in NHL history to reach the 30-goal mark in each of his first 13 NHL seasons, joining Mike Gartner (15 seasons) and Wayne Gretzky (13 seasons).