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Bruins Begin 11-Day Road Trip in Vancouver

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

VANCOUVER - The Bruins arrived in Vancouver Thursday afternoon after a long day of a travel, thanks to a seven-hour flight from the East Coast, and hit the ice for practice at the UBC Sports Centre.

While the ice time helped stretch out their skating legs after the lengthy plane ride, it served as yet another chance to get back to good habits.

The Black and Gold held a hard, aggressive practice on Wednesday back in Mass. and followed that up with an energized skate before kicking off their five-game road trip against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night at Rogers Arena. After Vancouver, they'll head through Calgary, Edmonton, St. Louis and Chicago for the team's longest regular season road trip under Claude Julien's tenure.

As they start this tough stretch, the Bruins can't afford to let bad habits keep creeping into their game. They have lost three of their past four games, including two straight to Montreal and Dallas at home.

"I think it's important that we bring our game up a notch," Julien said following Thursday's practice. "As far as transition, puck management, those kinds of things are really important for us right now, and when we were playing well, we had a quicker pace to our game and when you're struggling, your pace slows down, so we've got to pick up that pace again."

"We all have to be accountable," said Brad Marchand. "And right now, it's about making sure we all do our job and being prepared for every game. Right now, we can't afford to give up any points. To play the way we have the past few games isn't acceptable, so hopefully we can correct that [on Friday]."

As of Thursday, the Bruins were eighth in the Eastern Conference and holding the second Wild Card spot for a playoff position with 63 points. The Florida Panthers were sitting just four points back, with two games in hand, as they prepared to take on the Minnesota Wild Thursday night.

So, after a strong month of January, the Bruins are back to standings watch in mid-February.

"We know the situation we're in, and by any means, we're not happy with where we're at," said Marchand. "And [the Panthers] being close isn't acceptable, so the big thing is that we don't allow ourselves to get back in that situation."

"We can't take a step back, because right now, it seems like everyone's winning every night that's close to us, so we've got to make sure we keep climbing, and the only way to do that is to put a few really good wins under our belt and get back on a good streak."

Trip Down Memory Lane

The trip back to his hometown Vancouver is always special for Milan Lucic, especially since the Western Canada trip only happens once a season.

"It's always fun to come back," smiled Lucic. "Especially we don't come back here too often, but at least now with the new schedule, we come back at least once a year, so it's always nice to play in front of family and friends, and just looking forward to [Friday] night's game."

This time around, fellow British Columbia native Craig Cunningham gets to be with Lucic and the Bruins on the trip out West.

Cunningham, from Trail, BC, said he lives about six hours away from Vancouver, though it feels more like home because of his junior hockey playing days with the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants. He and Lucic played on the squad together for the 2006-07 season, when the Giants went on to capture the Memorial Cup.

"It's exciting, and pretty cool that we were able to play together in junior and now on the same team in the NHL," Cunningham said of his experience with Lucic. "I don't think there's a lot of guys that get that opportunity and he's been great for me. It's nice to have a guy who's been here and been around and a guy that you trust and can go to for everything, and he's always excited to come back as well."

The forward - who has carved out a role for himself as the right winger on Boston's fourth line with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell - played five seasons with the Giants from 2006-11 before ending his WHL career with the Portland Winterhawks and making the jump to the American Hockey League with Providence.

"I learned a lot about hockey and what it takes when I was here," said Cunningham. "It's the closest I'm going to get to home and there's a lot of people coming up. It's a really important road trip for us as a team and it's exciting to get back out West here."

"There's a lot of people who have helped me along the way who haven't been able to see me play, so there's a lot of people coming [Friday], I don't even know how many," he smiled. "So I'm excited to play in front of them. It's important, when you're growing up, the support that you get from everyone along the way, that you try and pay it back in the end and never forget the people who helped you along the way."

Roussel Suspended Two Games

On Friday, the NHL's Department of Player Safety announced that Dallas Stars forward Antonie Roussel was suspended two games for the crosscheck on Adam McQuaid that occurred at 3:43 into the first period of Tuesday night's game at TD Garden. Roussel was assessed a major penalty and ejected from the game. After heading down the tunnel, McQuaid returned and played the rest of the game.

"That personally doesn't regard us much," said Julien, when asked about the suspension. "Our player's fine. It was, in my mind, a suspendable play. How many games and that, doesn't really matter to me. I think it was handled properly."

Practice Lineup Feb. 12

Forwards:

White Jerseys: Milan Lucic - David Krejci - David Pastrnak

Gold: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

Gray: Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Burgundy: Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Craig Cunningham - Jordan Caron

Defense:

Zdeno Chara - Kevan Miller

Dennis Seidenberg - Dougie Hamilton

Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid

Matt Bartkowski

Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg

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