TAMPA, FL - Seven B's were missing from practice Tuesday in Wilmington, MA due to flu-like symptoms - and, luckily, those seven players were all on the ice Wednesday in Tampa, after making the team charter that left from Hanscom this morning.
The practice heated up - matching the weather outside - with hard full-ice workouts throughout most of the hour or so the B's were on the ice, a luxury they were not afforded Tuesday, when Coach Julien had to "ad-lib" drills, due to the smaller group.
"It was nice to have a full team, gives us a chance to practice with a little more emphasis on the different things," said Coach following practice, on the returns of Patrice Bergeron, Gregory Campbell, Andrew Ference, Nathan Horton, Anton Khudobin, Adam McQuaid, and Daniel Paille. "It’s nice to see our guys back."
"I think so," Coach added, when asked if everyone would be ready to play Thursday against the Lightning. "Let’s knock on wood that nothing else happens, but the guys that were missing from practice yesterday are all feeling much better today, so just hope that’s where it ends."
"I think the worst has passed," said Campbell, on how he felt today in practice after a tough 24 hours of sickness. "And hopefully the other guys can say the same thing."
"After a couple days of resting at home, I was able to kind of recuperate and have a good rest and try to be ready for tomorrow," added Paille. "We got lucky that it was quick and hopefully resolved. It was kind of sudden, everyone got it at the same time. But we got lucky, still being able to fly together."
The full practice saw the following line combinations, with two extra forwards: Lucic-Krejci-Horton; Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin; Bourque-Kelly-Peverley/Pandolfo; Paille-Campbell-Thornton-MacDermid. The healthy group ended the practice with battling drills on one end of the ice, all in preparation to face the Bolts for the first of three meetings on the season.
"This is an important road trip for us," said Campbell, on the three-game road swing that will see the B's play Tampa Bay, Florida and the New York Islanders. "Sometimes you can’t control things like the flu, for instance. I think these arenas – Tampa Bay and Florida – they’re tough to play in, they’re hot, they’re humid. The ice isn’t as good as we’re used to probably, it brings a little different element. Obviously, Tampa’s playing really well. We have to be sharp and it was good to get our legs under us today and have a good practice."
The first time the Bruins and Bolts were set to meet this season, a blizzard prevented the match-up. Tampa Bay had been on a losing skid at the time - and has now claimed two straight, including a 4-2 win over Toronto Tuesday night at home.
"Throughout the season, there’s a swing in momentum along the way, they’re either hot or they struggled and stuff like that," said Coach Julien, on if he felt more prepared for the game, having already readied the B's for the Bolts a couple of weeks ago. "We know they played last night and played well, so it’s up to us to make sure we dissect it to the point where we give ourselves the best chance."
And the Bruins will be facing a Lightning team that has averaged four goals per game this season, led by offensive firepower from not only Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, but also secondary scorers, which include the likes of former 'B' Benoit Pouliot as of late.
"Obviously, their two top lines are probably one of the best in the league," said Paille. "They play very strong at home, our history here has been pretty tough, too. We know that we need to come out a little bit better than we have in the past, but we just got to stick with what we did."
"We had the same adversity in Winnipeg and we seemed to answer it very well there. Hopefully, we can continue that tomorrow."
"They’re an explosive team," Coach Julien reiterated, on facing a well-rounded Bolts squad. "They’ve solidified themselves in certain areas, such as in goal, obviously defense – they’ve got a pretty decent nucleus back there. They’ve focused a lot more on their defensive game in their own end. [We're] probably going to be facing a team that’s a little bit more rounded versus a real power offense. But, the offense is still there and they’re still capable of scoring goals."
The Bruins are well aware that they are not at the top spot in the Northeast Division - or Eastern Conference - standings.
Boston is sitting three points behind Montreal, with three games in hand on the Canadiens, and is tied with both Ottawa and Toronto, having played four less games than both those squads. With 13 games played for a 9-2-2 record, the B's have played the fewest games of any NHL team to this point. As such, they are hoping that this three-game road trip will help bump them back up to the top of the standings.
"Looking at the standings, we’re definitely a few games behind," said Paille, on their awareness of the points situation. "That’s one thing we talked about is just trying to stay within the group. Right now, we’re living up to that."
"There are still a few more games to go before we try to keep up with everyone else. It’s definitely one thing that we want to keep going for the games to come and see what we can do and control the games we play in."
One thing the B's will be looking to do against the Lightning Thursday night is carry over their good team effort that earned them their first win in front of a hostile crowd at MTS Centre.
"To come out of that building with two points was a big boost for our team," said Campbell. "That makes us .500 on the road trip, so we have three more games left and needless to say, they’re big games, they’re big points."
"This is really a stretch where we’re going to catch up. We fell behind quite a few games behind other teams right now, so these are big games that we have to get points in. They’re not going to be easy, so we’re going to take it one game at a time and it’s just going to have to be a team effort."
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