Loui Eriksson, Shawn Thornton Returning in San Jose
Patience has been the focus with Eriksson, and he and the team worked steadily to get him back to 100 percent following his second concussion this season over a month ago on December 7. He's been skating with the team for the past 12 days, and taking contact since Wednesday.
"He says he's ready to go so he'll be in our lineup tonight," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said following the team's morning skate at the SAP Center.
"It's been a long time, it feels like," Eriksson said after the skate, with a sigh. "So it's going to be nice to be back."
"My head is feeling good, and my body, I've been having a lot of practicing the past week here, and I've been skating and feeling good, so I'm ready to get going."
Eriksson and Thornton have spent plenty of extra time together after practices for the past week, and battling with each other. They both had extra smiles on Saturday morning, with their impending returns.
"Thorty's been missing a lot of games now and I think he's excited to get going too. It's the same with me, I'm really excited to start playing again," smiled Eriksson. "And be around the guys, and try to win hockey games."
The winger has made sure he's fully confident taking a hit, and not just ready physically, but also mentally. Now, it's just about getting back into game speed timing. It will help that Eriksson is going to enter back into the lineup on the third line, with Carl Soderberg and Ryan Spooner.
"When I'm going out there playing, I'm just going to do what I'm supposed to do," he said. "If I get a hit, I think it's good for me to feel how I'm feeling out there."
Across the locker room, a smiling Shawn Thornton was also excited for his return, and in his usual "keep it light" form.
"I'm excited to be back, obviously. It was a tough night to sleep, I was a little excited, so it's been a long time. Can't wait to get it going."
Thornton's also excited for the intense extra conditioning to be replaced by game action.
"When Mr. Jarvis [Assistant Coach Doug Jarvis] gets you for 30 days straight, you tend to lose a little weight," he laughed. "Conditioning should be good, but timing and battling with Loui or the guys isn't the same as skating with nine other guys around you, so it might take a little bit to get that going."
For fun, as the team huddled up for a lengthy talk before pregame skate began to wrap up, Thornton's teammates and coaches had him skate a lap around the ice by himself.
"It might take me a little bit to get going but I'm going to do everything in my power to be ready for the drop of the puck," said Thornton.
The returns coincide with the team trying to fight their way out of a two-game slide on this road trip.
"We have to be honest here, Shawn's not going to be the savior of our hockey club here. Everyone as individuals doing their job is what's going to turn this around," said Julien, of getting the winger back in the lineup.
"But after missing 15 games, he's got to be chomping at the bit here and excited to play, there's no doubt. And as a team, we've always appreciated him in our lineup and what he brings and obviously, makes a lot of guys feel braver when he's in our lineup, knowing that he's going to stick up for anybody, so that's certainly a welcome situation for us."
The Bruins aren't expecting too much from Eriksson and Thornton; they forwards will ease back into the lineup by keeping it simple.
"We realize how long it's been for both, and it's just a matter of - they skated hard, they worked hard, and they've done a lot of things here, so…they just have to go out there and play their game."
Boychuk Back in Boston, as Bruins Face Sharks
Miller has played 11 games up with Boston this season, with his steady, simple game translating well at the NHL level, but the Bruins will still have a tough task against the Sharks with Chara and McQuaid the only "veteran" D.
"We've got to be ready for that physical, heavy game," said Captain Zdeno Chara. "We know they have a really good team, and some players who are great individuals. We've just got to be aware of them and play our game. Disciplined play and work hard."
"It starts obviously with the first shift. first thing, we've just got to stay disciplined and not give the other team too many chances on the power play, and really it comes down to working really hard and wining the races and battles."
It's going to take a team effort.
"I don't think we're pointing that finger at anybody here, more than we're looking at our team and as individuals, we want to find our game," said Julien. "In order to find that game, you've got to earn that. You've got to go out there and fight for it."
So, how do they do that?
"Back to basics, I think," said Thornton. "The old adage, just keep it simple and work hard, usually produces results."
Boston Projected Lineup
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Reilly Smith
Carl Soderberg-Ryan Spooner-Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton
Matt Bartkowski-Kevan Miller
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Starter: Tuukka Rask
Backup: Chad Johnson