BOSTON - Facing the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night didn't exactly present the Bruins with their toughest challenge. The Coyotes were coming in having lost eight straight, including three straight before closing out a four-game road trip in Boston.
Combined with the impending trade deadline coming up on March 2, there was a cloud hanging over the Coyotes heading into this one, whether they wanted it there or not.
"I haven’t really - to be honest with you - I haven’t looked at their record of eight straight losses more than I’ve looked at ours, saying this is an important game, as important as [Saturday's] was to win," Head Coach Claude Julien had said an hour before puck drop.
"We really have been taking a focus on our team, not just who we play, but how well we play. That’s the main thing right now."
The Bruins came out of a fairly stress-free night with a 4-1 win over Arizona and two straight wins for the first time in a month, having earned a 3-2 overtime win on Friday night in New Jersey.
Boston needed to take care of business, and they made it easy on themselves, for once, to push for the full 60 minutes, in all three zones.
Milan Lucic put the Bruins on the board just 2:40 in, taking advantage of a harmless David Pastrnak dump-in that jumped over goalie Mike Smith's stick. Lucic banked the puck off of Smith's skate and in for his 13th of the season.
NEWARK - Ryan Spooner had gone 34 NHL games without finding the back of the net.
He picked an opportune time to hit the twine, firing in the overtime winner to lift the Bruins to a 3-2 win over the New Jerseys Devils on Friday night at the Prudential Center.
The Bruins needed the two points, and Spooner needed the goal.
"Thanks," he smiled to reporters when they congratulated him postgame in locker room. "Finally."
Boston had given up a 2-0 lead in the third period, with the Devils tying it up 2-2 off two goals just 2:09 apart.
Early in overtime, Claude Julien was forced to a call a timeout with his team caught on an icing. It also offered a chance for the bench boss to drive home the message.
"He said, just go out there and play, and stick to our game. And we did that, and scored," said Spooner.
Niklas Svedberg, starting between the pipes with Tuukka Rask ill and not able to suit up, blocked away a shot from Martin Havlat. The Bruins got on their horse and went up ice with a four-on-two rush.
NEWARK - Tuukka Rask was not on the ice for pregame skate at the Prudential Center on Friday morning in New Jersey.
"He's actually under the weather right now, so we'll see how he is," Head Coach Claude Julien said following the skate. "We're obviously taking some precautions here, whether he can make it or not, and there's probably a goaltender that we'll try and get here for game time."
"If he's not feeling well, I'd rather not have him on the bench. We'll see. He talked to me this morning - feeling a little bit better, so we'll have to make some decisions here."
Niklas Svedberg was the only goalie on the ice for the skate, along with Goaltending Coach Bob Essensa.
Later in the afternoon, around 1:00 p.m., the Bruins announced that goaltender Jeremy Smith had been recalled from the Providence Bruins on an emergency basis. Smith will join the team in New Jersey and be eligible for the matchup with the Devils.
Given the situation, Julien did not confirm a starting goaltender.
"I don't have the answer. I know you're going to ask me who's going to be in nets - I don't know," Julien said before the recall was announced. "You know, Sveddy's here, obviously. I'll see how Tuukka is first, before I announce anything here…I'm not in the position to kind of say this is what's happening tonight."
BostonBruins.com - Sometimes, it just takes one. One game, one shift, one goal.
For Daniel Paille, that's all it took to feel good again.
After sitting out two straight games as a healthy scratch, and going through a stretch of 36 games without a goal, the 10-year veteran pounced on a rebound just 1:05 into his first game back, and powered it into the twine.
His last goal had come back on Nov. 21 in Columbus. The next one, on Feb. 24, snapped a 16-game pointless streak. His 13:27 in ice time was his 10th highest total all season.
The Bruins eventually fell 2-1 to Vancouver, and given the result, scoring was no consolation for Paille. But after netting his first goal in more than three months, he finally had the feeling back of finding the back of the net.
"Sometimes when you’re in the stretch that I was in, it’s good to take a step back before you take two steps forward," said Paille. "I think I was just in a bad place for a long time, couldn’t figure out how to get out of it, and after watching the last couple of games just tried to calm down a little bit and at the same time get some anger in there for when I get back in there."
Through 58 games this season, Paille now has two goals and seven assists.
"You know, I thought talking with Claude, he’s been really clear with me what he wants or what he needs from me," said Paille. "So there’s no miscommunication there, I just needed to have a better effort. That was my goal and I think I did a good job refocusing, but it’s only one game."
CHICAGO - Fourteen days and six games had passed since the Bruins last felt that winning feeling.
Any win, any which way, would have sufficed. It could have come in a shootout, in overtime, by a goal, by four goals.
The Bruins opted for the latter, as they stunned the Blackhawks in Chicago with a 6-2 win on Sunday at the United Center. It marked their first six-goal win of the season, and their first in Chicago since Feb. 21, 1999.
Six different Bruins scored the goals and 12 players recorded at least one point, with Patrice Bergeron recording a three-point game and kicking off the scoring just three minutes into the first period. Nearly the entire roster recorded a shot on goal.
The fourth line chipped in, with callup Brian Ferlin playing in his second NHL game and earning his first NHL point, when he controlled the puck down low and centered a feed for Gregory Campbell to give the Bruins 4-1 insurance.
CHICAGO - David Krejci traveled with the team to Chicago from St. Louis on Friday night, but did not take part in Saturday's practice at Johnny's IceHouse.
Krejci left during the second period of Friday's game against the Blues, after a hit on Alexander Steen at the blueline, and did not return.
"He’s still with us. Obviously, he’s not going to play [Sunday against Chicago]," Head Coach Claude Julien said after Saturday's skate. "We won’t have an update as far as the severity of his injury until we get back home and see our doctors."
The center's injury is something that could be treated by the trainers on the road.
"So he’s staying with us and will come back with us [Sunday]," said Julien, who confirmed that the injury is "totally different" that the one that Krejci dealt with to start the season.
"Obviously it's a big loss when you lose a player of his caliber," said linemate Milan Lucic. "He's been an important player for us for the last number of years, so I mean, he's definitely one of those guys that are hard to replace."
"But at the end of the day, you still have a job to do, and you still have to do it well. Just because one guy's out of the lineup can't change the whole focus of the team or the psyche of the team or the psyche of one player, as a linemate. So, sometimes, that just means you have to find new chemistry with guys and work a little bit harder to find that and hope that it comes."
ST. LOUIS - When Malcolm Subban dreamed about his NHL debut, Friday night wasn't exactly how he envisioned it to be.
After facing only three shots through the first 20 minutes, with his first save coming at 12:14 into the game, Subban saw three go past his glove just over five minutes into the second period.
The Bruins eventually dropped a 5-1 loss to the Blues in St. Louis.
"It's not the way you want to debut, obviously," a soft-spoken Subban said postgame, clearly disappointed in himself. "You know, your team's in a tough spot right now, you try to give your team a chance to win, maybe spark the team a bit, but you don't want to do the opposite. I feel like that's what I did today."
"So it's tough for the guys, and I couldn't come through and give them a good performance."
The 21-year-old netminder was keeping the night in perspective, though. This is the goaltender, in his second year pro, whose first NHL preseason action at TD Garden in 2013 resulted in an 8-2 loss to Detroit and him running the arena stairs afterwards to work it off and clear his mind.
"I've just got to recap and look at the stuff I did wrong and learn from it. Being a young guy, you can't let it rattle you too much," said Subban. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so I'm going to take that approach to tomorrow and the day after."
ST. LOUIS - Malcolm Subban is expected to make his first NHL start between the pipes for Boston on Friday night against the St. Louis Blues.
Subban joined the team in Edmonton and has been awaiting his debut.
"He’s going to start tonight," Head Coach Claude Julien confirmed following the team's pregame skate at Scottrade Center. "He’s a good goaltender. We’ve watched him in Providence, we’ve watched him here in practice, and I anticipate our team to play well in front of him."
The netminder spent a week with the team earlier in February and was recalled again on Feb. 16. He's in his second pro season with Providence after being drafted 24th overall by Boston in 2012.
"If I’m him, I’m pretty excited because I’m only in my second year pro [and getting an NHL start]," said Julien. "And with goaltenders, you like to be patient with them. I know our organization has been, with goaltenders in the past — Tuukka’s a good example of that."
"In his second year, he’s getting an opportunity here to play because he’s progressed well, and what happens from today on depends on a lot of different things, here, but I think he’s made some real good adjustments to his game."
ST. LOUIS - The Bruins flew to St. Louis from Edmonton on Thursday morning, with a quick turnaround from Wednesday's 11-round shootout loss to the Oilers.
After a week of travel, the team did not hold a full practice at Scottrade Center, with rest - mentally and physically - the priority.
The Bruins may have picked up a point in consecutive games, but their three-point lead over the Florida Panthers for the second Wild Card spot heading into Thursday night isn't much of a cushion.
They're a frustrated team that has dropped five straight losses, including three straight to start an 11-day, five-game road trip.
"I think guys are feeling the heat, feeling the stress of the expectations and stuff like that, so I’ve been trying to get these guys to not relax," Head Coach Claude Julien said from the Scottrade Center. "As far as the game is concerned, we’ve got to play better, but just mentally, they need to be a little bit more relax in order to be able to execute and think properly out there."
"You can see guys trying to do too much, guys missing open nets. We’ve got an open net, and you can see the frustration there [in Edmonton] when Looch came back to the bench. It goes to show, it’s not because guys don’t care; right now, we just, it’s about finding the right way to turn this thing around."
EDMONTON - The Bruins certainly aren't where they would like to be, with 25 games remaining in the regular season.
They're hanging onto a playoff position by three points. The important third point came in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Oilers at Rexall Place on Wednesday night.
That slight cushion is little consolation, after the Bruins fell down 2-0 early in the game and had to battle back to tie it up 3-3, before the longest shootout in Bruins' history - with 11 rounds - ensued.
It didn't matter who Boston was playing, having lost the first two games on their five-game road trip, and four straight. It also didn't matter the Bruins had picked up a point in Calgary with the loss there coming in overtime.
They needed to play like a desperate team.
"When you look at the outcome, it certainly doesn't look that way," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "I think there's a lot of frustration right now. I think the guys, everybody's feeling the heat we feel that's been put on us, and it's up to us to work through this and find ways to overcome those kinds of things."
"It's part of being a professional, it's part of the game. So it's up to us. We have higher expectations. In that dressing room, coaches and ourselves, we have higher expectations than what we've shown right now."
"So we're not going to hide behind disappointment and stand here and think that we're doing OK," Julien continued. "We're underachieving right now and our game's got to get better. I still feel we've got the group in there to make it better, so it's up to us to take charge."