ST. LOUIS, MO - The Bruins face the Blues in their second and final meeting on the season Thursday night in St. Louis.
For Boston, their focus is on the strong team game that's made them successful in their recent stretch, having lost only once in their past seven tilts.
The focus outside the locker room will undoubtedly be on the absence of Captain Zdeno Chara, who traveled to Sochi, Russia for the Olympic Opening Ceremony to carry Slovakia's flag.
"As a D corps, we're all going to have to step up and play well," Dougie Hamilton said following the team's optional pregame skate at Scottrade Center. "I think we're ready for that, but it's definitely going to be a challenge."
The challenge will come with upped minutes, and getting matchups, without being able to send the 6-foot-9, 255-pound shutdown defenseman to the ice in key situations.
David Warsofsky, who was first drafted by the Blues in 2008 (and traded to his hometown Bruins in 2010 for Vladimir Sobotka), is the left-side defenseman slotting into the lineup. He obviously won't be filling the void.
"Yeah, I don't think I can count that high, how many minutes he plays," the blueliner with four NHL games under belt laughed. "But I just want to play my game and I know the whole D corps back there will step up and I'm looking forward to it."
WILMINGTON, MA - On a snowy Wednesday in New England, the Bruins gathered at Ristuccia Arena for a skate before traveling to St. Louis, in advance of their game against the Blues on Thursday night.
Two games now remain for the Black & Gold before the NHL's Olympic break. They've made a strong push so far, garnering a 7-1-1 record in their past nine games, with only one regulation loss to Montreal and a shootout loss to the Blackhawks.
The consistency in their "team game" has been the biggest factor.
And while their recent success happens to fall before Olympic fever sets in around them, the talk around the locker room hasn't necessarily focused on the international event. The focus, simply, has just been on a game-by-game approach, picking up as many points as possible.
BOSTON, MA - The Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks are in different positions right now.
But that won't stop Tuesday night at TD Garden being a heated affair, naturally, in their second and final meeting of the season.
The Bruins are focusing on continuing the consistency they've built in their play, going 6-1-1 with only one regulation loss in their past eight games. They got back to their team game in a 4-0 shutout of the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
"I thought we were skating pretty well the whole 60 minutes and it was a good team effort so we have to keep our feet moving, and try to get the first goal, and go from there," said alternate captain David Krejci, following the team's morning skate at TD Garden.
The Canucks, meanwhile, are coming off a 2-0 loss to Detroit on Sunday night, and have now lost four straight games.
Boston had to halt Edmonton's three-game win streak, but facing a desperate team like Vancouver trying to turn their game around can often present more of a challenge.
"A desperate team is always a challenge, and we know that they're going to play desperate hockey," said alternate captain Chris Kelly. "You know, whenever you lose four games in a row, and expectations are extremely high like they are for that team, they're going to come out with their best game, and we need to be ready for that."
WILMINGTON, MA - Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara will be missing the team's final two games prior to the Olympic break, as he has been given the honor of carrying Slovakia's flag in the Opening Ceremonies this Friday, February 7 in Sochi, Russia.
It's an honor not lost on Chara, or Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien.
"When you look at what Zee has done for this club, I think it's an easy decision to make, because you're carrying your country's flag at the Olympics," Julien said back on January 16, when the announcement was made.
"And even if he misses a game and maybe two, I think that's the least we can do for a guy who's given us so much since he's been here."
After suiting up versus the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, Chara will then be absent for the Bruins' games against the Blues in St. Louis on Thursday, and then against the Ottawa Senators in Boston on Saturday.
BOSTON, MA - Just over five minutes into the first period on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden, Edmonton's Ales Hemsky raced on a partial breakaway towards Chad Johnson between the pipes.
Johnson stood his ground, and thwarted the chance on the Oilers' first shot of the game. The netminder made 21 more saves en route to a 4-0 win over Edmonton, and his first shutout as a Boston Bruin.
He now has a 10-3-0 record in Black & Gold.
"His record speaks for himself," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said of Johnson following the shutout. "I think the way he played tonight – even though people are going to say he didn’t get tested - but we know that’s as big a challenge for a goaltender as any. Especially when you’re playing a team like that that does have a lot of skill."
"He’s been playing well."
"It means a lot," said Johnson. "For me, it’s always just about the wins but I think when you can add a shutout there, it’s just kind of like a bonus point for myself. To get it at home too, it’s nice. It’s always nice to get a shutout."
Johnson did get help in front with the Bruins' better effort in the bounceback win from their 4-1 loss to Montreal on Thursday. They got back to playing their game.
WILMINGTON, MA - The Bruins hit the ice on Friday at Ristuccia Arena, ready to work out Thursday night's 4-1 loss to Montreal.
The areas of emphasis were simple: skating, decision-making and execution.
Practice focused heavily on their transition game - and having a bit of fun, ending the skate with two-on-two battling drills in one corner of the ice.
"That last drill is pretty intense, but a lot of fun, you learn how to battle in tight areas, and you touch up some areas you want to get better at; you try and make it interesting," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien following his squad's up-tempo practice.
The Black & Gold next host the Edmonton Oilers (and former Bruin Andrew Ference) on Saturday at TD Garden in a 1:00 p.m. matinee. After a 3-0 shutout of Carolina, the Oilers come in on their second three-game winning streak of the season.
"You try and create a situation where that energy is going to be back for tomorrow, and I think the biggest thing is if we can play well tomorrow, it's a lot easier to turn the page. If you don't, then you're prolonging the pain," said Julien.
BOSTON, MA - The outcome for the Bruins was a 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden on Thursday night.
Afterwards, Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien didn't have much trouble explaining why.
"It was three things for me," said the bench boss, during his postgame press conference. "We didn't skate well tonight, we didn't make good decisions, and we didn't execute well. When you have none of those three things, you're not going to win too many hockey games."
"So that was absent in our game tonight, and we certainly didn't pick a good night to play that kind of game, but the results are from a lack of those three things."
The Bruins hadn't trailed in a game for four straight contests. All four of those ended in wins for the Black & Gold. They had been playing with speed, with a strong pace that had led to three consecutive six-goal games.
Just 2:16 into the first period, the Canadiens took a 1-0 lead off Alexi Emelin's shot from the slot with traffic in front that found its way past Tuukka Rask.
"I mean, basically everything," alternate captain Patrice Bergeron sited, on the team's main problem in the defeat. "Execution and our heads weren’t into it. They deserved to win. We didn’t play anywhere near where we need to play to have success in this league."
BOSTON, MA - The Bruins host the Montreal Canadiens for the first time this season Thursday night at TD Garden.
When Boston faced them for the first time on December in Montreal, it was Reilly Smith's first time at the Bell Centre, and first time experiencing the heated Original Six rivalry that has stretched 90 years, and over 700 games.
The forward found out right away what makes this game different than the others.
"It's not the toughest game to get up for," Smith said pregame, following the team's morning skate at TD Garden. "These rivalry games are good to test the team and it should be a pretty emotional game tonight. These rivalry games are huge and they'll come out with their best game, so we have to be expecting that."
"It's always a great matchup, an intense game but also a fun game to be part of," added Patrice Bergeron. "There are only five games before the break now and it's a good challenge for us to wind up on a good note, and we have to take it a game at a time, and tonight's one of them."
The Bruins are 5-0-1 in their past six games, and have won four straight, putting up six goals apiece in their past three wins. Meanwhile, the Habs just picked up a 3-0 win over Carolina to snap a four-game losing streak.
BostonBruins.com - For seven weeks, Chris Kelly remained positive.
"I'm still smiling," he would say, with a smile.
"You can see light at the end of the tunnel - that's what they keep telling me - so I'm going to go by what they're saying."
He finally reached that point on January 28 at TD Garden, when he made his return to the lineup in the Bruins' 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers. The alternate captain had missed 22 games.
Kelly had been skating for two weeks, and traveled with the Bruins on their recent road trip that saw them pick up a pair of six-goal wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders, but he had to watch from up top in the press box.
"It's always difficult, but you know, there was light at the end of the tunnel," he stressed. "And we had a plan in mind, going into the last few weeks."
"And it would have been nice to play but it was nice just being around the guys."
Injuries can be a lonely time. His return in the Bruins' 6-2 win over Florida, with another four-line offensive outburst, was anything but.
BOSTON, MA - Shawn Thornton may not always score goals, but when he does, they are often beauties.
On Tuesday night at TD Garden, with the Bruins leading 4-2 over the Florida Panthers in the third period, Thornton collected a quick pass from Gregory Campbell just before the blueline in front of the Boston bench.
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The winger then streaked down the left side, cut across the middle, won the battle along the right wing boards against the Panthers' Tom Gilbert and Tomas Kopecky. He threw a shoulder, protected the puck, worked himself free and walked the goal line.
He had his 'Merlot Line' linemate Daniel Paille at the goal mouth for a pass, but had room to walk the goal line, fake a shot on defenseman Brian Campbell, move to his backhand, get around one more Panther and roof it top shelf on former teammate Tim Thomas.
Paille's wide smile - and Thornton's - told it all.
"Honestly, on that goal, Piesy brought a lot of guys to him and created a lot of space for myself. Being on the back door, he was chirping me that I looked him off actually," laughed Thornton.