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Bruins Aim to Carry Playoff Mindset into Saturday's Bout vs. Rangers

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — The Bruins have eight games remaining this season. They are currently tied with the Ottawa Senators for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, though the Senators do have a game in hand.

But for now, the Bruins have to forget about that. They have no other choice. They have to forget about what the Senators are doing, they have to forget about Thursday night’s gut-punch of an overtime loss to the Ducks, and they simply have to move on.

There is no other option if they want to be a part of the dance when it begins in just over two weeks.

“I think it’s playoffs for us right now,” said defenseman Torey Krug following Friday’s brief practice at TD Garden. “When you lose a game of a playoff series, you put it behind you, you learn from it and try to make adjustments, and then you move forward because if you dwell on what happened in the last game, you fall behind in the series.

“It’s kind of the way we’re approaching things, is we’re going to put it behind us and move on to the next one.”

Moving on from the disappointment incurred by Thursday night’s 3-2 defeat is easier said than done. The Bruins had a 2-1 lead heading into the final 40 seconds of regulation, only to see it disappear, courtesy of a questionable Corey Perry goal that seemed to involve some contact with Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.

It is understandable for the frustration to be mounting, with eight games remaining in the season and the final playoff spot just out of their grasp. But at this stage, Boston must find some way to channel that frustration, and that disappointment, into desperation.

“I think we have to find ways to use that frustration and desperation to our advantage,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “No one feels sorry for ourselves around the league. It's about us finding a way to win the games and to move forward.”

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said on Thursday night that his club cannot be tuned in to what the Senators are or aren’t doing. He said the Bruins cannot expect anyone else to do their dirty work.

As has been the mantra since Day 1, the Bruins have to focus on themselves, and only themselves, if they want to start achieving the results that will carry them into the postseason.

“It’s tough, but it’s one of the things we keep talking about, is putting that behind us, and I said it before — if you dwell on those things that go wrong, you’re going to fall behind in the long run,” Krug said. “We’re focusing on putting that behind us and just making sure that we’re making adjustments and continue to play our game. We had a good game last night, so if we continue to play like that, we’re going to win a lot of hockey games.”

The Bruins can certainly take some positives away from Thursday’s game, particularly after their most recent defeat, a 5-3 loss to the Lightning in which they strayed from their game early and could never recover.

“It’s difficult because you feel like you should have walked away with the win, and you look at the goal that was tied — definitely some contact with Tuukka — but you can’t dwell on it too much,” said forward Milan Lucic. "I think you have to focus on the positives of yesterday’s game. I think we played well to give ourselves a chance to win that game, and that’s the type of game we’re going to have to play here on in, as far as the checking goes and on the defensive side of things.”

On Thursday, the Bruins played their game. They limited chances defensively, they were strong on the forecheck and they didn’t let the Ducks draw them into playing the kind of run-and-gun game that victimized them against Tampa and, earlier last week, against Ottawa.

Obviously, the result was not what they wanted. Earning a single point, at this stage of the season, is no consolation. It was disappointing. It was frustrating. It is always frustrating, anytime a team takes a lead into the final minute of regulation and comes out the other end with one point instead of two.

But as difficult as it is, a short-term memory will serve the Bruins well as they head into this weekend’s back-to-back.

“I think we’re at that stage there where you have to park those kind of games and move on,” Julien said. “I think I felt our game was good last night; [Anaheim] is a team that scores a lot, and we kept them off the board there right until the last minute — or with one goal only, I should say, till the last minute.

“At the same time, we had our chances, but it felt like we didn’t get justice yesterday for that. It should have been a win. So we have to kind of park that and move ahead and look at New York, here, and just keep plugging away. We’re tied with Ottawa — I know they have a game in hand, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to make sure you win one more game than them.”

On to New York

Julien said it best during his post-practice press conference on Friday.

Or perhaps more accurately, it was a different New England-area coach who said it best.

“You’ve got to move forward, here,” Julien said. “As Bill [Belichick] would say, we’ve moved on to the Rangers.”

And that presents no easy feat for the Bruins. The Rangers roll into Boston having just become the first team to clinch a berth in the playoffs. They steamrolled the soaring Senators 5-1 on Thursday night. They have won eight of 11 games in the month of March, and the last time they faced the Bruins back on Feb. 4, they earned a 3-2 victory.

Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot enters this weekend with a 2.16 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in 32 starts while regular starter Henrik Lundqvist has continued to recover from a neck injury sustained in early February.

No matter who they face in net on Saturday afternoon — and it could be Lundqvist, given that he dressed as the backup on Thursday night — the Bruins know they will have to do exactly what they did on Thursday — and more — in order to come out with two points.

“Obviously, when we get our chances offensively, we’ve got to find a way to bury them more, and obviously, against a team like the Rangers — who have a lot of firepower and are playing really, really well as of late — we’re going to have to find ways to score some goals,” Lucic said. “Everyone’s really going to have to step up and score some big goals here. Again, we just have to try and find that confidence in ourselves and in our game, and believe in each other that we can come out with some wins, and get ourselves in the playoffs.”

The Bruins have had some success against the Rangers this season, particularly the last time New York visited TD Garden on Jan. 15. The Bruins earned a 3-0 shutout that night to extend a five-game winning streak.

They know they are capable of having success against the Rangers. They also know the Rangers are rolling right now, and regardless of the fact that they have already clinched a playoff berth, they have plenty to play for on Saturday.

“Every game, it's something we've talked about: We need to make sure we find ways to score goals, not just on the power play, but five-on-five,” Bergeron said. “[We need to] find ways to put teams away by getting that extra goal and the lead and two-goal leads and stuff like that. So it's about making sure we definitely do the job.

“We know it's going to be a tough matchup and a tough game. The goalie's playing really well, so we need to really make sure we bear down even more on chances, but make sure we make it hard for him and put some traffic there.”

It is, therefore, all the more important for Boston to stick to what gave them some success on Thursday.

“They’re a fast team, and they’re deep, and their D corps is pretty solid, so we’ve got to make sure we stick to the game plan,” Krug said. “If we try to get away from what we do best, like chipping pucks in deep and making sure we’re grinding it out on the forecheck and retrieving pucks, then I think we’ll be okay. But I think if we try to deviate from that, then we’re going to get in trouble as a whole group, so it’s about having the right mentality tomorrow and the right approach.

“I think the guys in this room have been doing that. The last game especially, I think it was great, the way we came out and we played, and we’re looking to get a result tomorrow.”

Spooner Showing His Stuff

When Ryan Spooner put the Bruins on the board with a power play goal in the second period of Thursday night’s game, it marked his third goal in his last four games and his fourth point in his last four games.

Since being recalled on Feb. 21, Spooner has amassed six goals and seven assists for 13 points in 16 contests, and he has emerged as a potent offensive weapon for Boston — particularly on the power play — and one that Julien has no intention of removing from his lineup.

Given the fact that he struggled to find his scoring touch through 23 NHL games last season, this recall has certainly proven to enhance Spooner’s confidence.

“It's been up and down for me,” Spooner said. “Last year, I came up and I played 23 games and I didn't score, so just come up this time around and to actually score has been good. I'm happy with myself with that, but at the same time, I think we're 0-3-3 in our last [six] games, and we're not really doing as well as we should be, so we've got to pick our game up, for sure.”

When Spooner was recalled at the end of February, it was to fill in for David Krejci, who had suffered a partially torn MCL in his left knee. On Thursday, Krejci returned to the lineup after a 15-game absence — but he didn’t return to his usual spot in the lineup. Spooner continued to center Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak, while Krejci slotted in on the right wing alongside Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Naturally, retaining his spot in the lineup has served as a vote of confidence for Spooner, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things he can still improve upon.

“He’s definitely gotten to be a better player,” Julien said. “First few times he came here, all his shots were from perimeters, and he had some assists — no goals. Right now, he’s certainly been a lot more productive.

“Having said that, as you can see, he’s really struggling on draws. That’s a little bit of experience and a little bit of strength. Same thing in certain areas — he’s got to continue to improve in that area. But he’s brought enough to our team to be a real good help, and that’s what we’re looking at.”

Julien added that Spooner has showed an encouraging willingness to put the work in and improve in the necessary areas, and that was evident following Friday’s practice, when Spooner remained on the ice after the team had stretched to work on faceoffs with Bergeron and Assistant Coach Doug Jarvis.

“I've been very up and down with [faceoffs],” Spooner said. “I remember last year when I was up here, I was like 30 percent for a 10-game span, and then I would get up to like 55, and then back down to 42 or something like that. So I think for me, it's more of a mental thing. I just need to bear down on it, and I'm just going to try that and see if that works.”

While Spooner and Pastrnak have certainly brought plenty of offensive upside to their line, there have been some costly defensive lapses as well. Lucic, who has played with Spooner throughout the entirety of this call-up, said that reliability in the defensive zone is still a work in progress for his line.

But so is their work in the other end. That isn’t lost on him.

“I think that’s a big thing for us, as a line, is managing the puck in the offensive zone, where we’re being hard on it and not just getting pushed off the puck easy and being one-and-done,” Lucic said. “I think that’s the biggest area of our game where we need to fix in order to help this team more 5-on-5. Yeah, it’s great that we help out on the power play, but the game’s played mostly 5-on-5.

“So like I said, [it’s about] just being harder on the puck in the O-zone, and making good plays and being harder around the net, where we can spend some more time in the offensive zone.”

Given the fact that both of Boston’s goals on Thursday came on the man advantage, Julien said that moving forward — on Saturday, and beyond — it will be imperative for every player to find a way to finish his chances at full strength. That responsibility falls on everyone, not just on Spooner’s line.

“I think this year, we’ve really struggled at finishing,” Julien said. “The chances, believe it or not, have been pretty even, but the finish has definitely been a lot different on our hockey team. I think there’s definitely reasons for us to have a better net-front presence. I think at times, certain players are getting boxed out too easily. We’ve got guys that are going to the front, but you need a full commitment from the team to get there and stay there, and sometimes it’s about timing.

“You don’t need to be there 10 seconds before and get cross-checked forever, but you’ve got to time it and you’ve got to be there to take the goalie’s eyes away, and for me, I think we could certainly improve in that area.”

Ferlin Assigned

Following Thursday’s game, the Bruins announced that forward Brian Ferlin had been assigned to Providence.

Ferlin made his NHL debut on Feb. 20 against St. Louis, during Boston’s five-game road trip through Western Canada and the Midwest. He was mostly utilized on the fourth line until Max Talbot was acquired from Colorado at the trade deadline and, in total, played in seven games with the Bruins.

Friday’s Practice Lineup

Gold Jerseys: Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Krejci

White Jerseys: Milan LucicRyan SpoonerDavid Pastrnak/Brett Connolly

Gray Jerseys: Reilly SmithCarl SoderbergLoui Eriksson

Burgundy Jerseys: Chris Kelly/Daniel PailleGregory CampbellMax Talbot

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski, Zach Trotman

Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg

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