BOSTON - The Bruins don't take teams for granted. Head Coach Claude Julien makes sure it stays that way.
The Buffalo Sabres last won a game on Feb. 26. They have lost seven straight since then, and remain in the last spot in the standings. They come into TD Garden on Tuesday night facing the Bruins in the second game of a back-to-back.
Still, the Bruins won't be overlooking them.
"Well, anybody who watched the game last night should know better. That’s my take on it," Julien said pregame on Tuesday from TD Garden, referencing the Sabres' 4-3 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals in D.C. on Sunday night in which they carried the play for most of the game.
"The Rangers beat them 2-0 with an empty-net goal. They’re very competitive. When you go out there and just go out there and play and compete hard and obviously [have] no pressure, you become a pretty good team and that’s what they are right now."
"The last two times we beat them, it took overtime so we’re certainly not in a position to come out and take them lightly."
While the Bruins sit in the second Wild Card for a playoff position, four points back of the Capitals with two games in hand, the Sabres are at a point in the season where the end is in sight.
"[Ted Nolan's] team continues to be competitive, [but] his team is still at the bottom. It’s tough for a coach. It really is tough for a coach," Julien empathized. "In his position, he wants his team to succeed and play well. I’m not sure overall that’s not what they want when they’re looking for the first overall pick, so it’s not an easy position to be in."
BostonBruins.com - David Krejci rejoined his teammates on Tuesday morning, taking part in his first skate with the team since sustaining his left knee injury on Feb. 20.
Krejci first started skating a week ago, on March 10, under the watchful eyes of Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides.
The center has missed 11 games with due to partially torn MCL in his left knee which has now been on the mend for three and a half weeks. He'll miss his 12th straight game on Tuesday, when the Bruins host the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden.
By all accounts, Krejci is progressing well, and inching closer to a return, that could come as early as this weekend, depending on how he continues to feel.
"You know, he was able to skate with us today because of line rushes and all that," said Head Coach Claude Julien, pointing to there being no contact drills during the customary pregame skate.
"So, he's progressing well," he said. "I don't know exactly how close he is [to returning] - is he a possibility for the weekend? I think the earliest would probably be the weekend, at the earliest, and maybe even more."
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Bruins went into the Verizon Center 7-0-1 in their past eight games. They had struck first on the scoreboard in 11 straight games. They had not trailed by two goals in a game since Feb. 20 in St. Louis.
By the time the buzzer sounded, the sirens went off, and the fans clad in the red, white and blue of the nation's capital received a stick salute from their home team, those Bruins' trends were snapped in a 2-0 loss to the Capitals.
Goaltender Braden Holbty extended his shutout streak to 126:43 against the Bruins. With a 4-0 loss to the Caps on Oct. 11 in the teams' first meeting, the Bruins have now been outscored 6-0 this season.
"Well, [he's been good] against us, at least," Head Coach Claude Julien said of Holtby. "We haven't scored a goal on these guys yet in two games, so it's been a little challenging for us."
"He played a pretty good game," said Brad Marchand. "I don't think we had enough traffic in front of him, and a goalie that is that good, you have to get bodies in front and take away his eyes, and we didn't do a good enough job of that."
The Caps had lost two straight and three of their last four games heading into the matchup with the Bruins, and were just a day removed from an off day turned into a 'wakeup call' practice and regrouping on Saturday. They needed to come out firing in front of their home crowd.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Bruins knew the month of March would be a tough one, starting off with 11 games in 18 days. It would be busy, and rest would be scarce.
That hasn't stopped the Black and Gold from winning five straight and going 7-0-1 in their past eight games, with the latest victory coming from a 2-0 shutout of the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Thanks to the win, the Bruins pulled themselves even with their next opponent - the Washington Capitals - for the first Wild Card spot in the East with 82 points. Boston has a game in hand, and could pass the Caps with a win on Sunday at the Verizon Center.
"We battled a long way to get here, so we're finally the spot that I think we deserve to be," Reilly Smith said pregame, taking a break from his two-touch soccer game to discuss the night's matchup.
"Especially this last 20-game span, we've strung together a lot of wins," he said. "So it's good to be here and they're a team we're competing for for this Wild Card spot, so it will be a good test tonight."
BOSTON - The Bruins have won nine straight games against the Tampa Bay Lightning since the 2011-12 season.
They will try for No. 10 on Thursday night, when they host Tampa Bay at TD Garden (7:00 p.m. ET, NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
The last regular season victory for the Bolts in Boston came back on March 25, 2010, and current Head Coach Jon Cooper hasn't been behind the bench for a win over the Black and Gold.
"I don't know - people have asked me that question all the time, 'Why are you 3-0 against Montreal, but you can't beat Boston?' Yet, Montreal beats Boston all the time. I don't know," said Cooper, who noted pregame that Boston is a team 'who's pretty much playing like they're first in the East.'
"It's the circle of the NHL. No answer for it. Hopefully it ends tonight," he quipped.
The Bruins are hoping otherwise.
Tampa Bay brings plenty of speed and skill as the highest scoring team in the League, having put up 223 goals through 68 games. Boston has consistently been able to shut them down.
It's a matchup to point to, when critics have deemed the Bruins as a team not quick enough to keep up with the skating legs of teams like Tampa Bay, Detroit and Montreal within the division.
WILMINGTON, Mass. - David Krejci skated on Wednesday morning for the second straight day in his recovery from a partially torn MCL in his left knee.
Krejci sustained the injury on Feb. 20 against the St. Louis Blues when he landed a hit on Alexander Steen. The center was slated to miss four to six weeks with the injury. He is just about three weeks into that time frame.
He hit the ice at Ristuccia Arena with Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides, spending about a half hour
"It's part of the healing process, so being on the ice is a good sign," said Head Coach Claude Julien, who knows that Krejci is still at least a week away from a possible return. "But he's not ready to be in our lineup."
In Krejci's absence, center Ryan Spooner has slotted in for the past eight games heading into Thursday night's matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. He has three goals and five assists in that span.
Spooner's call-ups over the span of his three pro seasons have come, for the most part, with Krejci sidelined. It's a tall task to slot into his spot, but this stint has been different for the forward.
Finally scoring his first NHL goal was a start. It came in his third game up with the big club, and catapulted the team to an overtime win in New Jersey the began their recent 5-0-1 run.
BOSTON - The playoff race is heating up, and if this weekend's back-to-back wins by the Bruins are any indication, they are heating up right along with it.
"It seems like everyone right now is feelin' it," said Brad Marchand, who struck first on Sunday afternoon en route to a 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden.
"You can see every line's making plays and we're all getting opportunities, so it's something that's been a long time coming and we've been working hard at it in practice, but it feels nice out there for sure."
The victory gave the Bruins four points on the weekend following their comeback 2-1 overtime win against Philadelphia on Saturday that saw Marchand net the late tying goal and the game-winner. Marchand now has five goals in his past four games.
The Black and Gold have earned nine of 10 possible points in their past five games, with a shootout loss to Calgary the lone defeat.
They have scored first in eight straight games, their power play is producing and the penalty kill is on the upswing - and managed two shorthanded tallies against the NHL's top ranked power play on Sunday. Players who should be producing, are starting to produce.
BOSTON - David Pastrnak isn't one for many words, but he understands how the page turns in the NHL.
The Bruins pulled off a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the Phildelphia Flyers on Saturday at TD Garden. Brad Marchand scored the tying goal with 14.1 left in regulation during a 6-on-4 power play, and then netted the winner.
"You know it was an important game for us - the Flyers are right behind us, so we knew it was going to be a hard game, but we wanted a win and try to get the better of them," the always smiling but soft-spoken Pastrnak said postgame.
But now the Bruins will quickly turn their attention to the Detroit Red Wings for a Sunday matinee (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, 98.5 The Sports Hub), with another two crucial points on the line.
"This game is over now and it’s good we got two points, but we have a game [Sunday] and we have to get ready for [that] game," Pastrnak said simply.
Detroit hasn't played since Friday night, but the Bruins aren't focused on the challenge of the back-to-back against a rested team, even if the game was originally schedule for 7:00 p.m. before NBC chose it for its "Game of the Week" matinee.
"You know, we got a game pushed up, and not only pushed up from 7 to 12:30, but you might as well play at 11:30 with the clocks going ahead [for Daylight Saving Time], so again, just challenge after challenge and we’ve just got to face those things and get ourselves ready," Head Coach Claude Julien said after Saturday's win.
"It’s important right now that our guys get out of here, get a good meal in themselves and get some good rest to prepare for [Sunday] because [Sunday’s] game to me is just as important as [this one]."
The Bruins gave themselves a slight cushion in the standings, now with 74 points in the second Wild Card spot. As a result, the Florida Panthers were four points back heading into their game on Saturday night against the New York Islanders. When the puck drops Sunday against Detroit, the B's will still have two games in hand on Florida.
The Flyers fell in OT, but still picked up a point, putting them five points behind the Bruins through 66 games. The gunning Ottawa Senators also have 69 points, but through 63 games, with one game in hand now on Boston.
"I mean, every team is going to give us a big challenge, a big game. Like I said before the game, it doesn’t matter who we play, every team we are going to play for the rest of the season is going to give us their best fight," said Zdeno Chara. "And we have to play the same way."
"We have teams that are either really close behind us or teams right ahead of us that will be fighting for better positions or every point basically. So it’s playoff mode, playoff hockey."
The Red Wings have 83 points heading into Sunday's game, ranked third in the Atlantic Division behind Montreal and Tampa Bay. They may be ahead of the Bruins points-wise, but they're also jockeying for playoff positioning.
The Bruins are hoping to carry over momentum from their overtime win into the divisional matchup. The killer instinct showed in the victory should definitely give them extra jump - it was the kind of win that happened often last season, but that hasn't happened often enough this season.
"It was a really important win for us, especially the way that it happened, too - we’re down, but never out," said Torey Krug. "[Philadelphia] scored a big goal with four minutes left and we responded very well. So it was nice to be on that side of things for a change."
The Bruins know the Red Wings' fast-paced game well. Detroit plays with speed and has plenty of skill, but can also wear teams down.
"We’ve got to be especially focused on not shooting ourselves in the foot, by not managing the puck well," said Julien. "And we’ve got to make some smart plays. We’ve got to play a smart game."
The Wings are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames, marking just their third loss in regulation by more than one goal all season. Their previous two losses by more than a goal came against Montreal (4-1 on Nov. 16, 2-0 on Feb. 16).
Prior to the loss, they squeezed out a 2-1 OT win over the New York Rangers in Detroit, after coming back from a strong six-game road trip that saw them earn nine of 12 points.
Rask or Svedberg?
Following Saturday's win, Tuukka Rask had appeared in 21 of the Bruins' last 22 games.
Julien opted not to confirm the starter for Sunday's game.
"Oh, I don’t know yet. I’ll have to sleep on it," he said.
Rask has always said he'll play every game if necessary. With Boston in the playoff hunt, Julien could start him back between the pipes.
"I mean we’ll see what happens [Sunday], but I’m always ready to play," Rask said postgame on Saturday. "It’s not like it was a full period of overtime."
Being More Aggressive on the PK
The Bruins wanted to tighten up their penalty kill heading into the Flyers game. Their first PK went that way, but the second allowed yet another power-play goal.
Philadelphia may have come into the game with the NHL's third ranked man-advantage, but the Bruins have been too passive on the penalty kill, now having allowed nine goals in their past nine games.
Detroit owns the top ranked power play, so Boston has to clamp down and be much more aggressive, not letting offensive weapons like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg make plays.
Chara's Point Production
Chara has scored twice in the Bruins' past two games from the point on the power play. He scored 10 power play goals in 2013-14 by mostly owning his new spot in front of the net on the man advantage.
He spent most of this season in that same position, but with a stalemate on the power play that caused a change-up on the units in the past few weeks, Chara has been manning the point. One of the goals came off is patented blast, and Saturday's tally came from a long-range wrister.
"He’s adjusted pretty well," said Julien. "He’s getting his shots through and you know, again, sometimes it’s not always the big slap shot but just making sure that you get shots to the net. I know he works hard in practice. He goes out there early and takes a ton of shots all the time, and it’s nice to see him get rewarded for that."
"Yeah I like it, it was something I use to play before," said Chara of the switch. "You know, sometimes it’s just a wrist shot that finds a way to get in. It’s nice to see we switched it up a little, we mixed up the units and it’s working right now."
Julien Pleased with Fourth Line
Campbell returned on Saturday after being sidelined for four games with an upper-body injury.
"I was pleasantly surprised at the way I felt, energy wise and the injury, so it was good," said the center, who played his first game with new Bruin Max Talbot on his right wing, and had the comfort of Daniel Paille on his left wing.
He iced a puck late in the third that eventually led to a Flyers' goal, and took accountability for the mistake postgame, but overall, Julien liked what he saw from the new line.
"I liked that fourth line," said Julien. "They did a great job, you know, and those are three veteran players and they played with a lot of energy and. Dan was skating like we’re used to seeing him skating and getting physically involved, and Soupy was excited to be back, and Max just, I think he’s got a great personality that I think is going to keep that line excited, and playing with a lot of intensity."
"He’s got some experience. He’s a former captain back in the day, and he’s been a great leader, so I think he’s a guy that understands the game. He understands his role. He knows he’s not the 50-goal scorer, but he’ll certainly go out there and he’ll create them. As you could see, he creates chances and can have some of his opportunities as well."
Talbot Feeling at Home with Boston
Talbot recorded his first point as a Bruin when he assisted on Marchand's overtime winner on Saturday, setting him up with a quick saucer pass off the rush. Talbot had been given a shift with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron prior to the goal.
While he's been in the Spoked-B for barely as week, and just two games, he has seemed to fit in well on and off the ice.
"It’s been great since I got the phone call from Mr. Chiarelli, and the guys have just been so welcoming and so nice to me," said Talbot. "I feel like I’ve known a couple of these guys. And on the ice as well, it’s been good, it’s been simple. The guys have made it easy for me. It’s going to be a good fit."
Talbot had an idea of the warm welcome he might receive, thanks to his teammate in Colorado, Jarome Iginla.
"Well, I talked to him at the start of the year, I was asking him about how it was in Boston, and he shot me a text when I got traded as well," said Talbot. "He said it’s a great spot, great hockey spot, good team and he only had good things to say about the city and the team."
Maybe Talbot will cement his new Black and Gold status by reminding the Red Wings about his past prowess against them - most notably scoring both goals in Pittsburgh's Game 7 Stanley Cup-winning 2-1 victory over Detroit in 2009.
Projected Lineup vs. Detroit March 8
Healthy Scratch: Brian Ferlin
BOSTON - The Bruins were 15 seconds away from not even earning a point.
With 14.1 on the clock in regulation, an extra attacker on the ice for a 6-on-4 power play, and Tuukka Rask watching from the bench, Brad Marchand fought his way to the front and tipped in a Dougie Hamilton shot from the right point to force extra time.
Marchand has scored big-time goals before, and this celebration was no different. The arms went up, the piercing shout no doubt resounded on the ice, and the determined look meant the Bruins had life. The home crowd at TD Garden followed suit.
The goal tied the game at 2-2. Boston had fought for a point, and they had the momentum heading into OT.
"I thought that everybody had that killing instinct going into that 6-on-4," said captain Zdeno Chara, who said he wasn't surprised Rask was pulled right at the start of the power play, with 2:03 to go in the third. "I mean, it’s do or die."
That killer instinct hasn't necessarily been there for the Bruins all season. Marchand helped them regain that.
Then, in overtime, the Black and Gold rolled out their sets of three forwards and one defenseman, pushing the pace, and playing to win.
With 1:08 to go, Marchand got the Bruins their second point, backhanding in the overtime winner to lift them to the 3-2 win.
BOSTON - The Bruins host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden in a four-point game that has important implications in the playoff race.
Game time is set for 1:00 p.m. (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
Boston has been holding on to the second Wild Card spot in the East with 72 points through 63 games. Philadelphia is gunning for that spot, sitting just four points back of the Bruins , though the Black and Gold have two games in hand.
The Florida Panthers (70 points, 65 games) and Ottawa Senators (69 points, 63 games) are both chasing the Bruins as well.
Needless to say, the Bruins need to start creating separation in the standings. Saturday's game is yet another opportunity to do that.
"I think the intensity has been high for a while," Dennis Seidenberg said pregame from TD Garden. "We all know what we're playing for, especially today, we're playing against a team that's a few points back behind us so we all know the importance of this game, and we're looking forward to it."
"Every team we're going to play, it's going to be a fight, it's going to be a battle," said captain Zdeno Chara. "We have a number of teams that are really closing on us and some teams ahead of us that we're going to be facing and pretty much every game, it's going to be a big battle for every point."