ST. PAUL, MN - The Bruins' final stretch before the postseason now includes just four games, beginning on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild.
That means four games "to make sure we're getting ready for the big dance," in the words of Shawn Thornton.
Coming off their 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, this is a time when the Bruins are in fine-tuning mode, focusing on no team but themselves. So, really, facing the Wild is no different than any other opponent right now in their minds.
"Well, I think the same as the other weeks," said Chris Kelly, of the approach for the Bruins this week, with the season coming to an end on April 13. "You know, there's still lots of hockey to be played. I think when you play a hockey game, it's an opportunity to get better, to work on things, and that's kind of the approach we're taking."
Both are still traveling with the team on their road trip to face Minnesota and Winnipeg.
"Yeah, they’re coming on the trip with us," Head Coach Claude Julien confirmed following Monday's practice. "They're still, I say 'day-to-day,' so we’re just going to be cautious this time of year, we’re just not pushing it. But they’re coming on the trip and is there a chance they could play? Yes."
And if the playoffs started today, would both be able to play?
"Oh yes, no doubt," said Julien.
Iginla and Miller both missed Saturday's game against Philadelphia at TD Garden with what Julien deemed as "very minor" situations.
"I would assess that more as maintenance more than anything else," Julien had said following the game. "And you guys know that [Jarome] missed a game in Detroit, he came back and right now, it’s still not 100 percent, so we’re going to take our time here with him. So same thing with Kevan."
BostonBruins.com - "Old-Time Hockey. All Guts. No Glory." These are the worse stitched on the back of the Bruins' new Player of the Game jacket, a varsity-style get-up, with weathered tan leather sleeves, that was once worn by Johnny "The Chief" Bucyk.
Milan Lucic was wearing it in front of his locker room stall on Saturday afternoon, as the Bruins took two points in a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers to clinch the top spot in the Eastern Conference heading into the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lucic notched two goals and an assist in the win.
Following the victory, Boston only has four games remaining in the regular season, before a new quest for the Cup begins.
"This is the new game jacket, from Johnny Bucyk," said a smiling Lucic, the first to don the new 2014 version of the jacket. "This is the new look from here on in, after a win, and hopefully we can pass it along for a long time."
The Jacket has taken on a meaning beyond just the fabric of its makeup since the Bruins' 2011 run to the Cup. The 2013 run saw the Bruins pass along a military jacket from win to win, that was given to Andrew Ference as a gift from Army Rangers.
This time around, it was The Captain, Zdeno Chara, who decided to acquire the new jacket from the Bruins' legend that has been a part of the organization for more than 50 years.
TORONTO - It's a foreign feeling for the Bruins, to be playing catch-up hockey.
It hasn't happened often throughout the past month, especially in the third period. But on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the Bruins found themselves down 3-1 to the Maple Leafs.
Boston eventually fell 4-3 in overtime to a Toronto squad that desperately needed the two points in continuing their bid for a spot in the postseason, but it was a glimpse at what those in the Spoked-B know they'll face come playoff time. Adversity.
"Shows some character to be able to tie it up against a desperate team like Toronto, and these are the types of situations you can find yourselves in the playoffs," said Lucic.
The Bruins were playing from behind nearly the entire game. The Leafs jumped out to a 1-0 lead just six minutes in, with Paul Ranger putting in the loose puck after a scramble in front of Chad Johnson.
TORONTO - Jarome Iginla returned to the lineup as the Bruins face the Maple Leafs on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre.
"Yes, he's back in the lineup with his same line," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien confirmed prior to the matchup with the Leafs.
Iginla missed the Bruins' game on Wednesday night in Detroit with a lower-body injury that was deemed "day-to-day."
It marked his first game out of the lineup due to an injury of any kind since the 2006-07 season. Julien had said Wednesday that it wasn't a major injury and that Iginla would have played through it if it was the postseason.
"You’re always going to miss a guy like that," Brad Marchand said pregame. "He’s got 30 goals and 60 points. It’s a guy you’re going to miss every night and he’s such a big factor and when he’s not scoring, he’s throwing his weight around and he’s a physical presence and it’s always tough to miss a guy like that. We’ll be happy to have him back."
TORONTO - The Bruins and Maple Leafs face off on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre in their fourth and final meeting on the season.
As has been the case - with now just six games remaining in the regular season - Boston and its opponent are in much different places.
Boston suffered their first regulation loss in 17 games on Wednesday, falling 3-2 in Detroit, with their nine-game winning streak on the road coming to an end.
Points-wise, the Bruins still have the Presidents' Trophy to play for, sitting at 110 points heading into Thursday's game, with St. Louis at 109. Boston could also clinch the Eastern Conference with a win against the Leafs, depending on the outcome of Pittsburgh's game against Winnipeg.
But, the Black & Gold also have their pride keeping them going.
"We don’t want to lose games. It doesn't matter what it is," Tuukka Rask said postgame in Detroit. "It doesn’t matter if you win 20 in a row, a loss is a loss."
DETROIT - Jarome Iginla is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
The winger was a late scratch Wednesday night in Detroit, after taking part in the Bruins' pregame skate at Joe Louis Arena earlier in the day. He did not take part in warmups prior to the game.
According to Head Coach Claude Julien, it is "not a major injury" and the winger would have played through it, had the game been in the postseason.
"Absolutely, yeah. That's why 'day-to-day' - it's not a major injury here. He skated this morning," Julien said following the team's 3-2 loss to the Red Wings.
The game marked Iginla's first out of the lineup due to an injury of any kind since the 2006-07 season.
With the winger sidelined, Jordan Caron slotted into the lineup. Loui Eriksson filled on the right wing, alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Caron took Eriksson's spot for the game, skating with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg.
DETROIT - For the first time in 31 days, the Bruins suffered a regulation loss.
Falling to the Red Wings 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday night, it marked just their third loss since March 1. Boston is 15-2-1 in that span, but still, a loss is a loss.
"We don’t want to lose games," said Tuukka Rask.
"It doesn't matter what it is. It doesn’t matter if you win 20 in a row, a loss is a loss. Especially when you lose in the third period. But we've got a new one [Thursday], so got to get over this."
The Black & Gold outshot Detroit 35-20 in the game, and 25-11 after the first 40 minutes. But as the Wings can often do, they capitalized on opportunities.
Following a scoreless first period, Johnny Boychuk blasted in his fourth of the season to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. A power-play fire from Torey Krug had just been immediately waved off, with Zdeno Chara pushed into Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard's stick.
DETROIT - When a team is rolling like the Bruins, it's tough to find a player in the room that isn't confident, that isn't positive, and that doesn't have the hunger to keep up the pace that has them at the top of the NHL.
On Wednesday morning at Joe Louis Arena, as Boston prepared to face Detroit for the teams' fourth and final meeting of the regular season, that feeling was widespread, both on the ice and in the locker room.
"You know, I think it’s definitely a good thing to see with the way we’re playing right now but I think everyone in here is confident - and just doesn’t want to let that go," said Daniel Paille, slowing down that last part word by word, to stress its importance.
This team, right now, does not want to lose. No team ever does. But the Bruins are 15-0-1 in their past 16 games and have won a franchise record nine on the road heading into Wednesday night's matchup with the Wings.
"There are a lot of positive vibes going around the dressing room and everyone wants to battle for one another and at this time of year, it’s extremely important," said Paille.
"We know that we’ve been kind of lucky in a couple games and I think that's been keeping us even-keeled going into the next game."
BostonBruins.com - In March, the Bruins blazed a 15-1-1 record, clinching a playoff berth and the Atlantic Division along the way.
During that span, Jarome Iginla scored 13 goals, including five game-winners, putting up 17 points with a plus-12 rating. On Tuesday, he was named the NHL's First Star of the Month.
A day prior, Patrice Bergeron had been given Second Star of the Week honors for the NHL's week ending March 30. The centerman put up five goals during the week, with the game-winner in a 3-0 shutout of Chicago, and capped off a career-best seven-game streak, scoring eight goals in that span.
Both Bruins, along with the collective team in the Spoked-B, have been on fire, and don't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
"I think it's incumbent on us as players to keep pushing the pace; the coaching staff drives us every day and the leaders in the room have been the ones that have really been stepping up, as you see Bergy, Jarome, those guys have been playing great hockey," said Gregory Campbell. "And that's what we need."