NASHVILLE — The Bruins continue their road trip against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, before closing out the trip in Dallas on Saturday.
Game time is set for 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. local — NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
The team held a well-attended optional pregame skate on Thursday morning, with both Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron back on the ice after being given rest days on Wednesday.
Bergeron returned to the lineup in Columbus on Tuesday night after missing two games with an undisclosed injury.
“It helps,” Bergeron said of the time off the ice. “You try and do as much treatment as possible right now and obviously it’s also about managing the practices and the time on the ice. The schedule’s pretty busy, so I guess it’s a little bit of both.”
The Bruins will likely roll out the same lineup as they had against Columbus. Zac Rinaldo and Joe Morrow stayed on for extra skating Thursday morning, and look to be the projected scratches. Max Talbot could also be a scratch again up front. Tuukka Rask opted to stay off the ice, while Jonas Gustavsson got in extra practice.
At 3-1-0 so far on their season-long, six-game road trip, the Bruins have been pleased with their record so far — but are not anywhere close to satisfied.
They felt like they didn’t put forth their best effort in Columbus, where they needed to earn the 2-1 win in overtime.
“I like the character we’ve shown in the games and we need a lot more of that,” said Bergeron. “The two games coming up are going to be tough matchups with great teams. We have to worry about tonight’s game — it’s going to be an important game for us. We know all the points are huge this time of the year.”
Battling for Playoff Spots
With 25 games left in the regular season for Boston and Nashville, both teams are feeling the intensity increase.
After the 2-1 win in Columbus, the Bruins jumped Detroit in the Atlantic Division standings by one point to put themselves into second place in the division.
In the West, the Predators are hanging on to the second Wild Card spot in the Central Division, two points above Minnesota.
The urgency from both sides should make for an exciting, physical game on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.
“For us, no matter who we play, we’ve got to get up for these kind of games,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “We’re trying to win as many as we can and keep ourselves in the position that allows us to be part of that playoff group, so I know that we can look at as a team on the other side that’s going to be desperate, but no matter what, we have to be at our best.”
“That’s what we talk about — we’ve got to find that urgency every night,” said Bergeron. “We’ve got to be good every night and it’s always a challenge. You see the standings change almost after every night, so we’re aware of it and we know it’s really important for us to keep moving forward.”
The Predators are feeling the pressure as well.
“There’s no question, the window is small,” said Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette. “The window gets shut — every day, it closes a little bit more and some teams have put themselves in a real good position down the stretch.”
“You’ve got to be playing well down the stretch. You’ve got to be playing well when you get to the playoffs in order to be successful. But the opportunity — every game that goes by is one less chance to try and make some noise.”
Eriksson on a Roll
Loui Eriksson has a goal a game on the Bruins’ road trip, most recently scoring the overtime winner against the Blue Jackets, after David Krejci and Torey Krug combined to set him up on the doorstep for the tap-in.
With the goal, he reached his sixth 20-goal season in the NHL, and made Boston the first team this season to have three 20-goal scorers (Marchand—28, Bergeron—22). It came in his 700th NHL game.
Loui - It’s always fun to score goals and it was nice to get the overtime goal there, and it was fun that it was in my 700th game too, so it’s a pretty cool milestone to get and hopefully I can get some more here going forward.”
“Loui always does the little things right, the details, taking care of that, but you know, I think around the net, he’s been really hanging around the front of the net,” said Bergeron. “That’s where — sometimes it’s hard to get there but he’s one of those guys who always goes to that area to find the loose pucks and he’s been doing a great job of that.”
Projected Lineup vs. Nashville 2/18
Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—Brett Connolly
Matt Beleskey—David Krejci—Jimmy Hayes
Loui Eriksson—Ryan Spooner—David Pastrnak
Landon Ferraro—Joonas Kemppainen/Max Talbot—Tyler Randell
Zdeno Chara—Zach Trotman
Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid
Dennis Seidenberg—Kevan Miller
Projected Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Jonas Gustavsson