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Boston Begins Back-to-Back in Dallas vs. Seguin and the Stars

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

DALLAS - The Bruins kick off a back-to-back in Dallas on Tuesday night, with just their two games against the Stars and Colorado Avalanche remaining before the All-Star Break.

Game time is set for 8:30 p.m. ET (7:30 local) at the American Airlines Center.

Boston took a step back in their 3-1 loss to Columbus on Saturday at TD Garden, lamenting the way they were outbattled by the Blue Jackets all over the ice.

The approach is as simple as going back to what made them successful during their five-game win streak before the recent loss.

"We've got to come out with the same mindset we had in those five games," Reilly Smith said following Tuesday morning's pregame skate. "I think we had a good work ethic and a good start in those games and that kind of pushed the pace the following two periods."

"So if we can get back to that , especially in the first 5-10 minutes tonight, then that will be a good start, and we'll push them back on their heels."

The Black and Gold are in a much better position to bounce back, though, than they were earlier in the season, when even one loss could start unravel their game.

"I think so. I think we've made a couple steps forward," said Smith. "And you're not going to win all of the games and that obviously happened last time we played Columbus, but I think we should be able to jump back here with a lot of momentum going into these last two games before the break."

The Bruins had been on a nine-game point streak before the loss to the Blue Jackets. That push has them sitting in the second Wild Card playoff spot in the East with 54 points. The Florida Panthers are four points back of the Bruins and the Washington Capitals are two points above them.

"I think that when you look at what we’ve accomplished in the last little while, it’s gotten us back in a playoff spot, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to get over that hump," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "It just goes to show you, when you dig yourself a hole, it’s not easy to get out of, and it takes a lot of those wins to get out of [it]."

"That’s what we’ve got to think about — getting those wins and trying to get another little streak going here and understanding what it takes to get that."

"We have to understand that we have to be willing to work hard every night, and in my mind, [Columbus] wanted it more than we did [on Saturday], and we can’t allow those things to happen," Julien said. "This is a team tonight, Dallas, that it’s their last game before the All-Star Break, and they’ve got a chance to get closer to a playoff spot, and we’re probably going to see the best out of those guys."

"So at the end of the night, it’s which team wants it more than the other? And that’s got to be us."

Texas Reunions

Whenever the Bruins and Stars face off, there's bound to be plenty of attention on the July 2013 trade that brought in current Bruins Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith, and sent Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to Dallas.

Eriksson amassed 150 goals and 207 assists for 357 points in 501 career games through seven seasons as a Dallas Star. When the forward made his first trip back to Dallas during the 2013-14 season, the Stars honored his time there with a video tribute.

"It’s always special to come back," Eriksson said. "I played a lot of games here, so definitely nice to be back and looking forward to the game tonight. It’s going to be fun."

The former Star had a tough first season in Boston, battling through concussions, but has found chemistry on a line with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg. He has provided 28 points for the B's this season (10 goals, 18 assists) through 45 games.

"I think it’s unfortunate that he’s stuck in that comparison because he’s not going to score the goals that Tyler is, but he’s certainly going to bring some other elements to our hockey club that we needed," said Julien. "And he’s been scoring goals, he’s a good two-way player, we’ve been using him on the power play and on the penalty kill."

"He’s a real smart, smart player, and he does a great job when he’s in front of the net, and not a lot of players in this league like standing in front. He doesn’t mind when it’s his turn to get there; he does a good job that way. I really felt that the concussions really slowed him down last year, and it took him a while to get going. Had a bit of a slow start this year, for the first probably dozen games, but he’s really picked up his game."

"His line with Soderberg and Kelly have really helped us get through this hump of injuries because that line’s produced more than we had expected, and certainly helped us get over the loss of [David] Krejci there for almost two months."

Another former Star doesn't have as much history with Dallas as Eriksson did, but Smith was drafted by his old team in 2009, and spent a season split between the AHL and NHL in 2012-13, putting up nine points (three goals, six assist) in 40 games with Dallas.

"You know it's pretty much like every other game," Smith vowed with a smile. "It's nice to be in Dallas, the weather here is nice, but other than that, nothing else really changes."

On the other side, Seguin has continued to grow into the top-line center role carved out for him with the Stars. He's also found strong chemistry with right winger Jamie Benn, whom Julien and Patrice Bergeron got to know well during the Olympics last year.

Seguin is tied for first in the NHL with 28 goals and is second with 52 points through 45 games.

"It's not surprising you know. It was never an issue with his potential," Julien told reporters on Monday, before the team traveled to Dallas. "At the same time, there's probably a good chance he's playing on the wing here right now with Krejci and Bergeron as your top two and stuff like that. But I mean, there's a deal done and we've moved on. Right now, we're in a playoff spot and I think that's important. They're battling for one right now. So we still feel we're in good shape here. We've just got to worry about ourselves."

"It’s a little different," Seguin said, of facing the Bruins a year and a half removed from the trade. "I guess the actual weirdness I felt for the first game or two against them, I think it’s a little different now, but it’s definitely nice seeing everyone out there."

"I think I’ve seen him enough to — first of all, I think he seems to be comfortable at center, but he’s got a pretty good right-winger that I had the experience of working with last year at the Olympics in Jamie," Julien added on Tuesday morning in Dallas, when asked how he has seen Seguin change. "That certainly is one thing. He’s getting older, he’s getting more experience, so his play is certainly getting better all the time."

"So I think that’s what I see in Tyler. He’s certainly a dangerous player out there, and you’ve got keep an eye on him all the time. He can make things happen, and he certainly can score goals."

Neutralizing Stars

Seguin and Benn lead a potent Stars' attack which often involves a four-man rush. With their speed and ability to push the pace, the Bruins are focused on neutralizing - and exploiting - that aspect of their game.

"You've just got to minimize turnovers, get the pucks behind them, take advantage of them in their defensive zone," said Smith. "Because obviously the strongest part of their game is their offensive firepower, so if you can put them back on their heels and make them go 200-feet the whole time, that will definitely be to our advantage."

The Stars have won two straight and sit four points of the second Wild Card spot in the West. Their most recent victory came from defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3 on Sunday.

"We’ve been a lot better as a team in our own end," said Seguin. "We’ve always been a team that can score goals, but in the beginning of the year we were losing games or winning games 5-4 or 6-5, so we’ve done a better job at that and helping our goalie out."

"We need to be more consistent," said Stars bench boss Lindy Ruff. "If we're going to keep pushing, our game has to keep trending towards playing better on the defensive side of the puck."

Marchand to Miss One More Game

Brad Marchand will sit out for one more game, after being handed a two-game suspension by the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Friday. He's eligible to return against the Avalanche in Colorado on Wednesday night.

Daniel Paille took rushes with Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith, and is expected to fill Marchand's role on that line, at least for the start of the game.

"I think the most important thing that we can do right now is do the right things to get a couple wins and if that means shortening the bench or moving players around, then we'll do that," Julien recently told media.

Projected Lineup 1/20 vs. Dallas

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - David Pastrnak

Daniel Paille - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Jordan Caron - Gregory Campbell - Craig Cunningham

Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton

Dennis Seidenberg - Adam McQuaid

Torey Krug - Kevan Miller

Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Niklas Svedberg

Scratches: Matt Bartkowski, Brad Marchand (suspended)

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