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Bruins, Avalanche Both Ready to Prove Their Worth

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

COLORADO — Back on October 10, the Bruins had a 2-0-0 record and were getting ready to face an upstart Avalanche team in their third game of the season.

That night, they walked away from TD Garden with a 2-0 loss hanging over their heads.

Now, here we are, approaching the last few weeks of the NHL season, and the storyline is very different for both of these teams. These days, the Bruins, have won 10 straight. They are one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and they could potentially become the first team to clinch a playoff berth with a win at the Pepsi Center on Friday night.

Meanwhile, Colorado can no longer be considered an “upstart” team; it has proven itself to be one of the tougher teams in the West, emerging as one of the top five teams in the conference and currently sitting in third place in the Central Division.

Both of these teams are well aware that a win on Friday would mean a lot — for each of them.

“I’m looking at our game again tonight, but it'd be nice [to clinch],” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said after the morning skate. “I talked about that earlier, you know, we've still got to clinch a playoff spot, and we know that our chances are pretty good. But that's not the point.”

“It's about being able to do that and then you work on the things you really have to work on from here on in. Giving guys rest is important, continuing to win is important too, and more so continuing to play well. If you play well, you win.”

At the end of the day, though, Julien stressed that it’s more important to focus on continuing to improve and correct weaknesses than it is to focus on clinching.

“We're not so much worried about the end results, as much as doing the right things from here on in,” he said.

“When a team's rolling like we are, we still have a lot of things we have to fine tune,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “They're a fast team, they're skilled, they can score goals, and it's just going to be a good test for us. We're excited for it.”

Alternately, the Avalanche feel confident that they have done enough up to this point to prove that they are the real deal.

“I think if you look at the standings, a reason for why we’re up there is because we belong up there,” said captain Gabriel Landeskog. “I think we’ve established ourselves, and we got to keep pushing and proving ourselves every night.”

Still, they know they’re going to have their hands full with a stacked Bruins lineup that has been flourishing of late. Colorado Head Coach Patrick Roy was especially complimentary of the Bruins’ top two lines.

“Who’s the top line on the other side? I don’t know — I see two solid lines there,” Roy said when asked about the Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla line’s plus-89 rating. “[Patrice] Bergeron is a pretty good hockey player, and Krejci is a good hockey player as well. I think this is a solid lineup.”

Avs forward Paul Stasny added that he’s looking forward to seeing how his team stacks up against the Bruins, and vice versa.

“It’s always a good - when teams are playing hot like that, playing with confidence, you have to play your best to beat them, so we'll be ready,” he said. “We know how they've been playing and we need to be on our A game.”

Boychuk Good to Go For Warmups

On Thursday, defenseman Johnny Boychuk participated in the team’s optional skate, marking the first time he was back on the ice since he went into the boards awkwardly against the Carolina Hurricanes nearly a week ago.

After Friday’s pregame skate, Julien said Boychuk will dress for warmups, but whether he will play is still to be determined.

“He's going to be in the warmup tonight, so I'm going to have 7 D’s, and after warmup, I'm going to make a decision,” Julien said. “So he's looking better. I've just got to kind of take the time to make that decision, whether it's [that] we're throwing him in now, or we're waiting till [Saturday].”

B’s Facing a Power Play Drought

The Bruins spent some time fine-tuning their power play at Friday’s morning skate, not because it is struggling but instead because they have gotten hardly any opportunities to put it to work of late.

Boston has gotten 192 power play opportunities this season, the very fewest in the league and well behind New Jersey’s 211. League leader Washington has gotten 255.

“For some reason, the refs, they don’t like us,” Krejci said with a smile. “I don’t know if that’s what it is, but I think as a group, we’re doing a good job to not get frustrated and just stay focused on the game. And that’s why we’ve been able to win games.”

Julien admitted to some frustration that the team seems to be having trouble drawing penalties.

“I’m not going to stand here and say it doesn't frustrate us to see the amount of power plays that we don't get - it is, you know, and you look at some games and see areas where we could have, but somehow it's just been a challenge for us,” he said. “When you look at power play opportunities, and for a team that does a pretty good job of winning battles along the wall, and playing at a pretty good pace, it's surprising that we don't have more than that.”

Krejci added that it can be more difficult to stay sharp on the man advantage when the opportunities just aren’t there.

“It's tough — sometimes you get one power play a game, sometimes you don't, and we don't get enough practice [during games], so it's tough to do something about it,” he said. “But it is what it is. I think we're a pretty good team five-on-five, so as long as we're winning, then no one is complaining.”

Projected Lines vs. Colorado

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Shawn Thornton - Gregory Campbell - Daniel Paille

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug, Andrej Meszaros, Kevan Miller, Corey Potter, Johnny Boychuk

Goaltender: Chad Johnson* // Tuukka Rask

*Johnson was the first goalie off the ice at Friday’s pregame skate.

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