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After Chicago, Another Tough Test Awaits Bruins

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON, Mass. — The Bruins pulled out a strong performance on Thursday night with a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

They’ll need to follow that up with the same intensity against their next opponent, the Washington Capitals, on Saturday.

The challenge will be keeping up that level of play, as the Bruins are the busiest they’ve been all season, and are currently amid a stretch of 18 games over a 33-day span.

“It’s getting to the zone where we have to get tougher and we play almost every other day, so it’ll be tough,” Tuukka Rask said following the win over Chicago.

“But as long as we stay fresh and mentally sharp and just keep skating and battling, it’s going to be good. It’s definitely not going to be easy, but the biggest thing is not to get comfortable right now.”

When the Bruins play their game, they’ve shown this season that they can earn commanding wins over the league’s top teams like Chicago and Dallas.

It’s the consistent that needs to be there down the stretch, with the standings changing nearly every day.

“We all realize that at this time of the year, being comfortable or complacent is not going to accomplish anything,” Captain Zdeno Chara said following the team’s Friday practice at Ristuccia Arena. “Especially with the schedule we have and the teams we are about to play, it’s not getting any easier and if we look at the standings, it’s still very, very tight and taking an easy approach would be a big mistake.”

“We all know that [Saturday] night’s going to be a game against one of the best teams in the league and we have to be ready for them.”

While Chicago currently sits atop the Western Conference with Dallas close behind, Washington has been atop the Eastern Conference for the majority of the season. With 98 points, the Capitals are 13 points ahead of the next closest team (Blackhawks) in the standings.

“We all felt we had a strong performance and a really good 60-minute effort [against Chicago], but we’re going to need that again against Washington, who is playing extremely well the whole season,” said Chara. “They have a lot of depth, speed and skill. We’ve got to be ready for the same performance and approach.”

Rolling four lines helped the Bruins find success against the Blackhawks and their depth.

“When you can do that and have your fourth line contributing and skating, it helps our the other lines,” said Brett Connolly, who has been skating on a dynamic fourth line with Landon Ferraro and Noel Acciari.

“Those top two lines play a lot on our team and when you can have the bottom two lines carrying their load and playing a little bit of minutes, your top guys don’t get too tired. And I think that if we want to be successful this year, we need to have all four lines rolling and playing hard and being in the game at all times and I think we did that the last couple games — it’s a matter of sticking with it.

“We have a big team coming in [Saturday] night, another big test and big points that we need.”

Boston’s new-look fourth line helped contribute in the 2-1 win over Calgary on Tuesday, and was reliable enough for Head Coach Claude Julien.

“I think that we’ve been creating things and we’ve had a couple chances and we’ve been skating and being good defensively,” said Connolly. “We chipped in the first game with the goal, Lance [Landon Ferraro] got one and we’re going to need that down the stretch, no matter who’s playing where.”

“We’re going to need to use all four lines, no matter who’s playing on what line. It’s a matter of rolling over teams and wearing down the opponent and I thought we’ve done a pretty good job of that the last couple of games.”

With two NHL games under his belt, Acciari is starting to feel more comfortable — and with that comfort, will likely come more chemistry with his line.

“I feel a little bit more comfortable out there as each shift is going on and practices, getting used to my linemates and it’s a lot of fun,” said Acciari. “Now that the nerves are going away, it’s starting to be a lot of fun.”

The Bruins are amidst an exciting part of the season, with talk of the playoffs becoming more of a regular occurrence.

Prior to Friday night’s game, the Bruins were third in the Atlantic Division with 78 points.

“Once in a few days, at least for myself, I take a look at the standings,” said Chara. “But it’s not like you’re looking too much ahead.”

“I think we’re looking at next game, which is [Saturday], and the next after that, instead of looking at maybe a week or two weeks ahead of our schedule. So I think the next game is the most important game and that’s the approach we’re taking.”

Practice Groupings 3/4

Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—Lee Stempniak
White Jerseys: Matt Beleskey—David Krejci—David Pastrnak
Gray Jerseys: Loui Eriksson—Ryan Spooner—Jimmy Hayes
Merlot: Landon Ferraro—Noel Acciari—Brett Connolly—Tyler Randell

Practice Defense Pairs 3/4

Zdeno Chara—Kevan Miller
John-Michael Liles—Adam McQuaid
Torey Krug—Dennis Seidenberg
Joe Morrow—Zach Trotman

Goalies

Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson

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