Jarome Iginla, Kevan Miller Out vs. Wild; Dougie Hamilton Returns to Xcel for First Time Since Draft
ST. PAUL, MN - The Bruins' final stretch before the postseason now includes just four games, beginning on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild.
That means four games "to make sure we're getting ready for the big dance," in the words of Shawn Thornton.
Coming off their 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, this is a time when the Bruins are in fine-tuning mode, focusing on no team but themselves. So, really, facing the Wild is no different than any other opponent right now in their minds.
"Well, I think the same as the other weeks," said Chris Kelly, of the approach for the Bruins this week, with the season coming to an end on April 13. "You know, there's still lots of hockey to be played. I think when you play a hockey game, it's an opportunity to get better, to work on things, and that's kind of the approach we're taking."
"We're playing Minnesota, who's battling for a playoff spot and I think these games have been really good for us, playing teams that have something to play for and it's been close games; it's not been lopsided games either way, so you're forced to play a solid 60 minutes, and think and play hard for 60-plus minutes."
Boston is still atop the League with 113 points, two above St. Louis at 111. The Wild is in a playoff position, and now sits just one point from clinching their berth to the 2014 postseason.
Minnesota is coming off back-to-back shutouts with Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes in a 4-0 win over Pittsburgh and then a 1-0 shutout of Winnipeg on Monday night.
The Bruins took a 4-1 win from the Wild in the team's first meeting on the season in Boston back on March 17.
"They're a team that plays very well defensively, they're stingy and don't give up much," said Patrice Bergeron following the team's morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. "It was a tough game to win against them in our building, and we know it's going to be even tougher here. They're playing to get that point, so we know they're going to be ready to tonight."
While the Bruins are well aware that they're facing another emotionally-charged opponent, the game is more about continuing their own strong play, which has seen them put together a 13-1-4 road record in their past 18 games (amidst the franchise record nine-game road win streak).
"It's about making sure we keep building before the playoffs," added Bergeron. "And the consistency we've been working on since the Olympic Break, it's been working but it's also something we've talked about, we've preached on and we need to keep that going heading into the playoffs."
Jarome Iginla, Kevan Miller Out vs. Wild
"They’re not going to be in tonight," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "They’re on the trip because they could play if we needed them to."
The Bruins are managing both players as very minor, "day-to-day" situations. Both stayed off the ice Monday and did not play in the team's game on Saturday against Philadelphia. Julien maintains that if it was the playoffs, they could both play, so now it's about getting them to 100 percent for the postseason.
Prior to the final week of the season, Julien said he and staff had a plan in place to rest the top minute-loggers on the team. Will Iginla's situation affect that?
"Maybe a little bit, but not that much," said Julien. "We’ll still get to do what we want to do here, so just a matter of putting that puzzle together with four games left, and go with it."
"It's definitely nice to play with them — they’ve been playing together for a while and they know each other well, but the two games I’ve played with them, we’ve had some good chances and we’ve been playing pretty good," said Eriksson. "So it’s just fun and its always nice to get an opportunity to play with them."
Heading into the game against Minnesota, Patrice Bergeron is on a career-best 11-game point streak with nine goals and six assists for 15 points in that span.
"Yeah, you know, we just talk about rotating and making sure we," he began, to laughter from the small group of gathered reporters.
"No, it’s the way it goes sometimes," he continued. "You know, but obviously, when you are scoring, your linemates are usually doing lots of the work to get the puck to you or to create some openings and to give you the puck. So they’ve been playing well. I don’t have an answer for why it’s been one after another, but it’s been great to play with these guys and I feel like we’ve been establishing chemistry as we go on."
Draft Day Memories for Dougie
Tuesday's pregame skate marked defenseman Dougie Hamilton's first time back at the Xcel Energy Center since being drafted there ninth overall by Boston in 2011.
"I think it’s pretty cool. I'm just trying to piece it together, it’s a little bit different with ice out there and everything but I remember taking some pictures in this room," said Hamilton, as he glanced around the visiting team locker room. "It's just a cool memory to be back here."
Can he believe it's been nearly three years?
"No, I said that to my mom yesterday," he said. "I was like, it feels like yesterday and it’s pretty crazy how fast it’s gone - you can’t really complain with that, though."
Bryz-Time in Minnesota
Ilya Bryzgalov has posted back-to-back shutouts for the Wild, with a current shutout streak of 142:15 as he gets set to face the Bruins.
Since arriving at the trade deadline, the goaltender is 6-0-3 with a 1.52 goals-against average, .935 save percentage and three shutouts. He hasn't lost a game in regulation between the pipes since January 24.
It's been a challenging season for Minnesota - up until this point - when it comes to goalies, having already had seven different netminders suit up for them.
"You've got to give them credit for managing to stay in that playoff hunt because we all know how important a goaltender is," said Julien. "That’s what goaltenders bring — they’re one of the unique positions that on nights, you can say if it wasn’t for him, we would’ve won. You can’t say that too often from a player, unless you score four goals. It’s a team thing. So that’s the importance of that position and right now, the great deal in getting Bryzgalov, and he’s certainly answering the call."
The Bruins' game will be aired on NESNplus tonight when they take on the Minnesota Wild at 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. local). Pregame coverage will begin at 7:30 p.m. with Bruins Face-Off LIVE. To check local cable listings for the NESNplus channel number in your area, click here.