Jarome Iginla, Kevan Miller Absent from Skate But Traveling to Minnesota
Both are still traveling with the team on their road trip to face Minnesota and Winnipeg.
"Yeah, they’re coming on the trip with us," Head Coach Claude Julien confirmed following Monday's practice. "They're still, I say 'day-to-day,' so we’re just going to be cautious this time of year, we’re just not pushing it. But they’re coming on the trip and is there a chance they could play? Yes."
And if the playoffs started today, would both be able to play?
"Oh yes, no doubt," said Julien.
Iginla and Miller both missed Saturday's game against Philadelphia at TD Garden with what Julien deemed as "very minor" situations.
"I would assess that more as maintenance more than anything else," Julien had said following the game. "And you guys know that [Jarome] missed a game in Detroit, he came back and right now, it’s still not 100 percent, so we’re going to take our time here with him. So same thing with Kevan."
With Iginla's absence, Loui Eriksson has been skating on the right wing alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic. The trio has played two games together, against Detroit and Philadelphia, factoring largely into the Bruins' 5-2 win over the Flyers with three goals as a line.
Eriksson put up a career-high four assists in the game, providing helpers on two goals from Lucic, a goal from Krejci and an empty-net goal from Chris Kelly to cap off the victory.
"He’s a very smart hockey player, he’s in the right position a lot of the times, he’s got a good stick, and that’s what makes him an easy player to play with," Lucic said of Eriksson. "So, two of the last three games where we were able to play with him, we were able to generate a lot of offensive chances and [Saturday] were able to get rewarded for those."
Whether Eriksson winds up playing with Lucic and Krejci again, or if Iginla slots back into the lineup, the Bruins continue to see his impact, which has grown along with his post-Olympic confidence.
While his fellow forwards always talk highly about his smarts and hockey sense, he may be most valued by his teammates on the blueline.
"The biggest thing with him, is that I notice how good his stick is," said Hamilton. "I don't know if some people notice that; you can see a lot of times on the PK and in his own zone, he knocks down a lot of pucks, intercepts pucks and besides that, he's always in the right position, so it's really nice - when he's on the ice, it's nice to be a defenseman."
"There are a lot of qualities [to his game] that are undervalued maybe, but we see them and appreciate them on this team."
Fine-Tuning Time, as Bruins Head to Minnesota and Winnipeg
With only four games remaining in the regular season, the Bruins will be spending their final week on the road, first facing the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night before heading to Winnipeg to face the Jets on Thursday.
Having locked up the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division, the only accolade left for the Bruins to chase is the Presidents' Trophy. They are currently two points up on St. Louis in the standings, with 113 points on the season.
They'll also be using the final week as a chance to rest key minute-loggers on the team.
"As we mentioned, we want to rest some players which you will probably see moving forward here with four games left," said Julien. "But we still have lots of goals."
"The teams that we are playing – Minnesota, you know, where they are in the standings, they are going to come out hard against us. When you play Winnipeg, you say 'well they’re done and what’s going to happen to them,' well, they want to finish on a good note. Nobody wants to finish on a bad note."
"We need to finish really strong… I think, for us, it’s really - again - the consistency. The thought that if we play well, then we really have a chance to finish at the top of the league no matter if we rest players or not. We still have something to play for and we should play for that."
Though they'll be playing for that top spot, the Black & Gold seem ready to get the postseason going. The key will be utilizing their final week of the season for some fine-tuning before hitting reset for the playoffs.
"We've got to stay sharp; we've got to stay ready for that first game, whenever it may be," said Shawn Thornton. "We have four games to make sure we're getting ready for the big dance. Obviously, everyone around here wants to start playoffs as soon as possible, but, we have a week left, and we better continue to work on things that we can get better at."
In a sense, the Bruins have been getting into playoff mode for the past month. Aside from two losses in regulation, a shootout loss and one in overtime, those in the Spoked-B have been doing a lot of winning amidst their 15-2-2 record since March 1.
"I kind of like the way that we've approached every game, the way that we've mentally and physically prepared for every game," Thornton reflected. "We've gone in with the same mindset and we've been very consistent and I think that's been the key to the success we've had."
"We've got a good bunch of guys here, and we have for a long time. We've been through a lot together, and the new guys that have come in have just bought in, and I think that's equally important as the guys that have been here trying to lead the way."