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Bruins Begin Road Trip Trying to Solve the Caps

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Bruins haven't been able to solve Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals yet this season.

Wednesday night would be a good time to change that.

Boston remains in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Ottawa Senators' 4-3 win in overtime against Pittsburgh on Tuesday night put them even with the Bruins at 95 points. The B's play their game in hand against the Caps on Wednesday, before the Bruins and Senators each play their final two games on Thursday and Saturday. The Penguins have 96 points with two games left, and the Red Wings have 97.

Given the game's implications, the Black and Gold are zeroed in on finding a way to get the all-important two points.

Holtby is expected to make his 24th straight start against Boston and his 72nd appearance of the season. He's already reached a career-high 40 wins.

The netminder's shutout streak against the Bruins sits at 126:43. He and the Caps stoned the Bruins 2-0 on March 15 at the Verizon Center, and 4-0 much earlier in the season on Oct. 11.

"Obviously we know we were shut out two times," David Krejci said following the Bruins' pregame skate at the Verzion Center on Wednesday. "Throw lots of pucks on net and create some traffic, get our nose dirty, and that's how we have to score goals."

The Bruins' most recent game, a 2-1 shootout win over Toronto on Saturday, saw them have trouble finding their finish, despite putting up 79 shot attempts with 50 shots on goal.

They're not necessarily worried about that carrying over into this matchup, but they are emphasizing the areas that will help them finally get past the Caps this season.

"I think the last two times we played them, he did a good job keeping pucks out - I think he saw too many pucks though," said Reilly Smith. "I think that was our biggest problem, getting in front of the net and making it a little more difficult on him."

"So that's going to be the focus tonight. Getting some traffic in front and trying to get some shots through."

The last time the teams faced off at the Verizon Center in March, the Caps started the game outshooting the Bruins 10-1.

"We’ve got to be a little bit better than we were the last time in here," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "They had a good start, took us a while to get ourselves in the game, and they got an early power play goal, and it stayed like that for a while."

"I thought their second goal was a bit of a lucky one; it was going wide, and it hit Soupy and went in, so you’re in this game even though you don’t have a great start - so we have to have a better start and manage the puck well against these guys."

The Bruins make things happen offensively when they're managing the puck well, quickly breaking up ice with a strong transition game, and chipping pucks into places where they can win the battles and retrieve them.

If they can get their cycle game going down low, with defensemen getting their shots through from out high and bodies fighting for space in front, they'll hopefully break though.

As always, against the Caps and their offensive weapons like Alex Ovechkin, defense may just be the Bruins' best offense.

"To me, it’s going to be a man’s game tonight," said Julien. "And if you want to play this kind of game, you’ve got to be ready to put everything on the line."

Workhorse vs. Workhorse

While Holtby is expected to make his 72nd appearance of the season, Tuukka Rask is expected to make his 68th appearance. Rask has 34 wins on the season.

The "workhorse" of the Bruins hasn't felt his game altered by the upped time between the pipes, other than having to make sure he's not mentally fatigued.

The same goes for Holtby, and many other goaltenders -- at least 11 goalies had 60 or more appearances on the season heading into Wednesday's action.

"If there's concern for him, there's concerns for a lot of goalies in this League, because he's one of many that have played a lot of games this year," Julien said on Tuesday, in regards to Rask. "There's at least I would think at least 10, if not a dozen, goalies that are high there in numbers, and some of those goalies have even had more work than he has."

"So that's the nature of the beast right now and you have to work around it, and make sure that things work out, and find ways to give your goaltender a rest when he needs it."

"Right now, you have to go with your best players. And if he was showing signs of fatigue and letting in some bad goals and really sloppy, then yeah, I'd certainly have a different decision to make. But that hasn't been the case."

Line Switches

The line switches reflected in practice this week appear to be sticking for Wednesday's game against Washington, at least for the start.

"I know it’s a big story right now, but it is what it is," said Julien. "We’re moving guys around, and we’ve got Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, if you want — we can move different guys around. To me, it’s a normal things for coaches. I look at the teams that are winning, and from game to game, they change lines anyway."

"I guess you guys have gotten accustomed to seeing the same lines from me for years and a bit more patient - this year, that's different, so I guess that’s what it is."

"I’m going to continue to coach to win hockey games, and that’s the only thing I can do right now."

One switch has Brett Connolly skating with Ryan Spooner and Chris Kelly. He's bounced around on different lines since making his debut as a Bruin. That move put David Krejci back at center.

"I’ve obviously played with a lot of guys, and Coach hasn’t seen me play, so he’s just throwing me with a few different guys," said Connolly. "Just got to prepare the right way and be doing the right things all the time and it shouldn’t be that big of a deal."

"Hopefully, me, Spoons, and Kells will find a little chemistry here tonight right away, and we can just keep building that way."

Projected Lineup April 8 vs. Capitals

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Loui Eriksson

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - David Pastrnak

Chris Kelly - Ryan Spooner - Brett Connolly

Gregory Campbell - Carl Soderberg - Reilly Smith

Zdeno Chara - Zach Trotman

Torey Krug - Dennis Seidenberg

Matt Bartkowski - Adam McQuaid

Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Niklas Svedberg

Scratches: Daniel Paille, Max Talbot, Joe Morrow

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