Pregame in St. Louis: Warsofsky Suiting Up, Bruins Emphasizing "Team Game" Without Chara
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."
"We're going to try and manage it the best we can, but at the same time, you've got to rely on those guys to do the job; it's as simple as that," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "It's not about putting pressure on them; it's about letting them know that they've got to go out there and play their game."
"If they're here, we've got confidence in them to play well and they've shown it in the past; every one of those guys have shown that they can handle the ice time that's been given to them, and the workload, and the challenge that's offered to him."
Most of the minutes will fall to Johnny Boychuk, the most veteran defender right now with 297 regular season games of experience. Dougie Hamilton (81 NHL games), Matt Bartkowski (60), Torey Krug (58) and Kevan Miller (26) round out the back end, along with Warsofsky (4).
Julien isn't expecting Chara's responsibility to fall to just Boychuk, though; it's going to be by committee.
"I don't expect him to give me more, because that means he hasn't given me enough," said Julien. "I think I need him to be at the top of his game, just play well and do his job well, and that's going to help us."
"I think the responsibility lies on everybody that's out there. Everybody has to do their job, and you just can't expect a player to say, well I'm going to pick up the slack. He may get more ice time, that may be what's expected, but nothing from his play - his play has to be his best and to expect someone to give more, is not realistic."
Adding Warsofsky, and subtracting Chara, may give the Bruins less size, but it also increases the mobility factor. As Bartkowski, Hamilton and Krug can often skate the puck out of trouble, look for Warsofsky to do the same.
"Every game he's played for us so far this year, he's gotten better and better with confidence," said Julien. "He's a good skater, he's a great puck-moving defenseman, his mobility is really good, and he's a young player that we think is up and coming, and it's just a matter of time I think before he sets himself up in the NHL for good."
Bruins, Blues Play the "Right Way"
When Boston and St. Louis faced off earlier this season, the Blues earned a 3-2 shootout win, but the result could have gone either way. Both teams fought hard.
When the two teams clash - though not often - you hear both sides talking about the other "playing the game the right way."
"It's just a real strong team game," said Blues defenseman Barret Jackman, an alternate captain that has spent his entire 12-season NHL career with St. Louis. "Boston is a powerhouse in the East and it's a measuring stick every time a Western team plays them."
"They play together, it's a very straightforward game. They're a very physical, skating team, and they're never going to quit. It's going to be 60, 65 minutes of battles, one-on-one type things, that you have to win."
"Lots of times this year we've been the targeted team. Boston, for the last six, seven years, and anytime you see them on the schedule, and you have the chance to beat them in your home building it's definitely something you get up for and you find that little extra adrenaline."
It's surely nothing but coincidence, but the Blues are 8-1-1 against the Eastern Conference in their home building. If anything, it showcasing their confidence and swagger at home, as the Bruins have at TD Garden.
"They're big and fast and skilled, and I don't think there's a weakness in their game," said Dougie Hamilton. "So it's going to be another challenge for us tonight, and playing in their home rink too, so it will be fun."
Boston Projected Lineup
Healthy Scratch: Jordan Caron