NEWARK — The Bruins kick off a five-game road trip on Friday night against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.
Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. ET (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
A win would certainly give the Bruins confidence as they begin a slate of six games in nine days, including the trip.
“You want to always start a road trip on the right foot and it starts with a win here,” said Torey Krug. “It’s important to get out in front and feel good about your game because going into other teams’ buildings is tough, especially when we have a couple back-to-backs here where you want to make sure you get the first one and use it as momentum for the second one. So the first game’s always crucial.”
The Bruins will head to Ottawa right after the game to face the Senators on Saturday night.
Boston, Ottawa and New Jersey are all right on top of each other in the standings, with the Devils just one point ahead of the Bruins (45 points) in the East’s first Wild Card spot. Boston and Ottawa each have 44 points. The Bruins have three games in hand on both teams.
“The standings are so close that it’s crucial to get the points that we can while we still have some games in hand,” said Krug. “And we can start to leap-frog some teams — so the mood in the locker room right now is to make sure we come out with the right attitude and to play the right way and try to collect some points.”
With 38 games under their belt, Black & Gold are quickly approaching the second half of the season.
“We went through it last year where we had to watch the standings every single game to see what happened,” said Krug. “We don’t want to be in that position again this year.”
“But it’s looking like it’s going to be a tight race all the way to the end. So it’s an exciting time, especially for the fan to watch the quality of the hockey — I think it brings the best out of teams.”
“I think this is when you really start jockeying for position,” said Devils goaltender Cory Schneider. “Every point matters, every game matters — they all matter, but right now it gets magnified and intensified. Every game you can tell, the style of play changes a little bit when the New Year comes and everyone sort of realizes what they have to do to put themselves in a good position.”
While both teams are tight in the standings, they’re also dealing with similar adversity from injuries and a recent dip in play.
On the Bruins’ end, they are without Adam McQuaid and David Krejci, who are on Injured Reserve with upper-body injuries and did not begin the trip with the team. Among others, the Devils are without Mike Cammalleri, Tuomo Ruutu and defenseman John Moore.
“I know they’re dealing with some injuries like we are,” said Schneider. “So I know that game we had against them a couple weeks ago in Boston and they didn’t look any worse for the wear, so we’re going to have a tough game ahead of us.”
Boston picked up a 2-1 shootout win over New Jersey in the team’s first meeting of the season at TD Garden in December.
“I know they’re fighting for the same position we are and trying to make it into the playoffs,” said the Devils netminder. “We’ve always had a hard time with the Bruins. They play a certain way and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go against that.”
Boston will get a lift from being on the road — it’s been one of the top teams on the road all season, with an 11-3-2 record in opponents’ buildings.
“I think we’ve taken a good approach to our game, as far as not trying to do too much, versus at home maybe you try and put on a little bit more of a show,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “But we’ve just seemed to have been better and better prepared and have worked harder and smarter, so there’s no real other reason than that.”
Pastrnak Expected to Suit Up
David Pastrnak could be suiting up on Friday night in his first game with Boston since Oct. 31.
The forward missed 21 games with a foot injury, before being assigned on a conditioning stint to Providence on Dec. 19 and then playing in the World Junior Championship for the Czech Republic.
Julien is looking forward to seeing the 19-year-old play with confidence back in the lineup.
“To just see how much he’s come around,” said Julien, of what he’s be watching for with Pastrnak. “He’s been out for a while and we shouldn’t expect him to come here and all of a sudden turn things around for us. I think the team’s got to do it as a whole.”
“But he’s just a small part of the puzzle and he’s a young player and we’ve got to give him an opportunity here to get in our lineup at some point and go out there and just play his game. He’s a good skater, he’s a good playmaker, but at this level, you’ve got to be more than just that, so he’s had an opportunity now to play a few games with the World Juniors and the American League and hopefully he’s ready for this level.”
Gustavsson Likely to Start
Though the Bruins held an optional pregame skate on Friday morning, Jonas Gustavsson practiced in the visitors net at the Prudential Center and was the first goaltender off the ice. Tuukka Rask stayed on for extra time.
Gustavsson was between the pipes for the Bruins’ 2-1 win over New Jersey the last time the two teams met on Dec. 20. That game and the Bruins’ loss to Buffalo on Dec. 26 mark his two most recent starts.
The netminder is 6-3-1 on the season with a 2.58 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. With Gustavsson starting on Friday, Rask could get the start in Ottawa on Saturday against the Senators.
Projected Lineup vs. New Jersey 1/8
WILMINGTON — Adam McQuaid did not practice with the Bruins on Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena.
The defenseman left Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Capitals during the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return.
McQuaid went hard into the boards and glass after a hit from behind by Zach Sill at 4:47 into the period and stayed on the ice for a few minutes while being tended to by Bruins medical staff. He eventually was able to sit up and was helped gingerly to the bench by his teammates before heading down the tunnel. Sill was scheduled to have a hearing on Wednesday with the NHL Department of Player Safety.
“No further update on him,” Head Coach Claude Julien said of McQuaid when he addressed the media following Wednesday’s practice.
Julien did not yet know whether or not the blueliner would be traveling on the team’s upcoming five-game road trip that begins in New Jersey on Friday night.
“Don’t know,” Julien said. “That’s where we’re at right now with him.”
BOSTON — No matter how the Bruins garner a win, they need a bounce-back performance.
An all-around team win against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at TD Garden would certainly provide a boost, especially with four of their past five games ending in defeat.
“Well, I think it’s important for us to think that we need to win a hockey game here and nothing changes from before — the standings, the games in hand… you have to win,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “Especially the way that last game ended, we certainly needed a better performance from our team.”
The Black & Gold host the Capitals at 7:00 p.m. ET (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
After three days off from game action following the Winter Classic, with two hard practice days mixed in, the Bruins should be the fresher team. They should also be catching the Caps on a brief downturn, with them having lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“I think we’ve done a good job this year of answering the bell and turning the page when we haven’t had such a great game [this season],” said Frank Vatrano. “I think we’ve done a good job at answering and coming back with a strong game.”
BOSTON — The Bruins took advantage of a second straight practice day on Monday before hosting the Washington Capitals — the Eastern Conference’s top team — on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
The two productive practices were a luxury following a busy month of December. They came at the right time, given the ill-timed outcome of the Bruins’ matchup against Montreal in the Winter Classic.
“It’s good we had these two days,” said Captain Zdeno Chara. “We have to move forward, and I think like any other game in season, when you have a bad game, you just have to move forward and get ready for the next one. That’s the way we took the approach.”
“It’s going to happen again, having a bad game — obviously we picked the wrong game, probably the worst game of the season,” Chara added. “But yeah, there’s no other way [but to] just get ready for the next games we have coming up.”
FOXBOROUGH — The atmosphere was set at Gillette Stadium, with the days, weeks and months of build-up finally reaching puck drop on the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
A crowd of nearly 67,000 packed into the stadium with a sea of Black & Gold reaching up to the lights and surrounding the field.
It was the perfect backdrop for a big stage like the Winter Classic.
For the home team, however, the game was anything but perfect, with Boston dropping a 5-1 loss to Montreal in the much anticipated New Year’s Day matchup.
Warmups came and went with the Bruins taking in their surroundings — the fans packing the stands, the music blasting — and making the long walk on to the field for introductions and anthems.
But when the puck dropped, the Black & Gold didn’t appear ready.
FOXBOROUGH — As the sun came up over Gillette Stadium on Thursday morning, the scene was perfectly set for a busy day in the lead-up to the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between Boston and Montreal.
The Bruins hit the ice for a team photo and full practice around 11:00 a.m., getting a feel before the puck drops on Friday’s game. Clad in their Black & Gold uniforms with the old-school Spoked-B on the front, the Bruins went to work for a hard skate, but also took in the scene one more time before the stands will be packed with fans.
“It was fun walking out for practice — they had music playing, you can see how big it is when you walk out, so I’m excited to get out there [on Friday],” said Matt Beleskey, who took in his first Patriots’ game at Gillette in the Fall. “It’s going to be a great experience.”
The setup has been taking Beleskey back to his youth days, spending time on his friend’s backyard rink and frequenting about 10 different rinks within a 15-mile radius of his house in Ontario.
This sheet of ice is much bigger, much more aesthetic, with much more meaning — but the atmosphere’s key ingredient is bred from the excitement of simply loving the game.
“It’s obviously one of the highlights of the season for the whole League, so it’s a privilege and honor to be playing in this game,” said Captain Zdeno Chara. “It’s one of those experiences you will always treasure and remember.”
BOSTON — The first one was fortuitous.
Jimmy Hayes pounced on the loose puck after a bounce off the endboards and stuffed it past Ottawa Senators netminder Craig Anderson, helping the Bruins strike first for the first time in four games. His fist bump to the air and arm raise to the fans was evidence of that.
“You get a bounce like that, there’s a nice little smile on your face,” said Hayes.
The second one was a beauty.
Up ice on a 2-on-1, Hayes one-timed a perfect saucer pass from Talbot over the defender’s stick to make it 5-3 Bruins in the third. Talbot grabbed his shoulders and shouted into his face.
“I know Jimmy’s got a good shot and he certainly put it where it needed to be,” said Talbot.
The third, well, that was a buzzer beater with 0.2 on the clock that sent the hats flying down on to the TD Garden, commemorating the first year Bruin’s first NHL career hat trick — and the Bruins’ 7-3 win over Ottawa. It snapped a three-game losing streak and set them up for a few relaxing days before Friday's Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium.
“I wasn’t sure how much time was left and I just put it on net,” said Hayes.
BOSTON — While roster decisions were up in the air for the Bruins on Tuesday morning as they prepared to host Ottawa at TD Garden, there was something for certain: the need to snap a three-game losing streak.
The Bruins are coming off a 3-1 loss in Ottawa on Sunday night that followed a 6-3 loss to Buffalo the day prior. Boston also fell 2-0 to St. Louis just before the holiday break.
Apart from the loss to the Sabres, in which the Bruins allowed five goals in 10 minutes in the third period, their game hasn’t taken a massive downturn, though.
“Last game, I thought as a whole and as a team, the game went pretty well — I think we can build off of that,” said Ryan Spooner. “We didn’t get the win, which is the most important thing, but I think the way that we played, it just kind of showed how we bounced back from the game before.”
The Bruins outshot the Senators 39-21 in Ottawa. They just need to crash the net for rebounds and capitalize on those opportunities they generated in front of Sens goaltender Craig Anderson.
BOSTON — David Pastrnak will be made available to join the Czech national team at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney told reporters during the first intermission of Saturday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden.
The NHL’s roster freeze, which began on Dec. 19, ends at midnight (local time) on Dec. 27.
“We are going to make him available to them at that particular time, unless we have injuries that would dictate otherwise,” Sweeney said.
The World Junior Championship began on Dec. 26 in Helsinki, Finland.
Pastrnak recently joined the Providence Bruins on a conditioning loan and suited up in two games, marking his first game action since Oct. 31.
“David’s played two games since being out for seven weeks. Obviously the injury took longer and it was in his best interest to make sure he was fully healthy,” said Sweeney. “He is fully healthy and now we need to get him back to where he would impact our lineup.”
BOSTON — The Bruins pegged Tuesday night’s matchup with the St. Louis Blues as a “measuring stick.”
Head Coach Claude Julien eyed it that way, and so did the players.
For most of the night, the Black & Gold were even with one of the top teams in the West. Both teams played disciplined. There wasn’t much time or space. Both sides had to go to battle.
But the Bruins came up just short, falling 2-0 to St. Louis, with two breakaway goals allowed in the third period. It marked the first time the League’s second-best offense had been shut out this season, in game No. 33.
With the loss, Boston wasn’t able to achieve their goal of jumping Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division.
“We were ready to try to finish on a good note,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We did have a few good looks that we could have beared down a little better and that would have given us momentum, but yeah, I liked the way that I sensed the room before the game.”