OTTAWA - Just one month remains in the National Hockey League season. The stretch run is in full swing and the postseason is on the horizon.
Every game and point is vital to the teams in the playoff chase, meaning Monday night's tilt between the Bruins and Senators in Ottawa carries an elevated level of importance.
It is the first of three meetings between the teams during the final month. With Ottawa sitting in second place in the Atlantic Division, just two points ahead of the third-place Bruins, the games will be essential in determining playoff positioning.
Need to Know Preview: Bruins at Senators
"We know the importance of this game," said Patrice Bergeron. "We know where we stand in the standings, we know every point and every game is important. It's a divisional game, but obviously right now we're working to get into the playoffs and stay there. That's our focus.
"It's good to be able to play those teams that you're fighting against. It's in our hands. You can't look too far ahead, at the same time. That's the good job that we've been doing lately is taking it one game at a time."
Video: Bruins gearing up for crucial tilt with Senators
McQuaid Ready for Action
Adam McQuaid will be in the lineup on Monday night, despite receiving 20-25 stitches after taking a skate blade to the neck on Saturday against the Devils. The blueliner made it through the morning skate without any setbacks.
"Felt like myself out there. Felt good," said McQuaid. "Definitely think I had a little help from the man upstairs, for sure. It was a close call and I definitely feel very fortunate."
Video: McQuaid and Cassidy speak after Adam's injury scare
Homecoming for Cassidy, Spooner
Interim head coach Bruce Cassidy grew up in Ottawa, making tonight, his first game here as the Bruins bench boss, a bit more special. He will have a number of family members in the stands.
"I have family here, I was born and raised here," said Cassidy, who has led the Bruins to an 8-2-0 record since taking over. "It's nice to visit, but once the puck drops I think that's behind you. We want to win every night - I'm not trying to be cliché, but it's the truth.
"There's a lot of pressure in this business and you want to win every night and play well. It means a little more because you have people waiting after that you have a smile on your face for, but other than that it's an important hockey game and that's the way we're looking at it."
Ryan Spooner, who has two career two-goal games at Canadian Tire Centre, was also raised in Ottawa and always enjoys playing in his hometown.
"It's great," said Spooner, who has four goals and six assists in his last 12 games. "When I was a kid I used to come here and watch a lot of game. It's awesome to come back here. It's a fun time, I'm excited for it."
Cassidy confirmed there would be no changes to the lineup from Saturday night's win over New Jersey, other than slotting Tuukka Rask back between the pipes. Here is the projected lineup based on Monday's morning skate.
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Backes
Peter Cehlarik - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano - Ryan Spooner - Drew Stafford
Tim Schaller - Dominic Moore - Riley Nash
Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
Colin Miller - Kevan Miller
Scratches: Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, John-Michael Liles, Joe Morrow.