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Bruins, Canucks Put 2011 Memories Aside, Focus on Fight for Playoff Position

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

VANCOUVER - The Bruins and Canucks will meet for just the fourth time since the 2011 Stanley Cup Final on Friday night at Rogers Arena.

It marks the first game of the annual season series, with the Canucks making a trip to Boston on Feb. 24.

Both sides may be different, with players and coaches having come and gone, but no matter what, 2011 is always a topic of conversation around both locker rooms.

So, is there a still a rivalry between the teams?

"We’ll see tonight I guess, right?" Head Coach Claude Julien said following the Bruins' pregame skate at Rogers Arena. "You’re asking me a question that I can’t answer right now. Who knows how the intensity of both teams will be tonight — what they’ll turn out to be, and what will result from it."

"You never forget something like that, the guys who were here," said Vancouver Head Coach Willie Desjardins, on memories coming back for the members of his team who experienced 2011 as Canucks. "Through the run, they'll never forget that series and I think it will always mean something playing against Boston."

"It’s not like we played them last year [in the playoffs] or anything, so a lot has changed since then," Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows weighed in.

"Would have liked to win four years ago," said Burrows. "But they’re a much different team now, and we’re a much different team. Personally, maybe [it comes back] a little bit. Would have been nice to get it done then, but now we’ve moved on from that and now we have to focus on what we’ve got to do tonight and get the two points."

For Vancouver native Milan Lucic, coming back to play against his hometown team is always exciting, especially with family and friends in the crowd. There's also remnants of 2011 that return every time he's in the locker room and around the arena. This is only the second time the Bruins have been back since then.

"That's what makes these games so exciting still," said Lucic. "And first game of a five-game road trip for us, so we want to make sure it's a good game on our end. Obviously, both teams are in the same position, as far as playoff spots go and I think that puts a lot more emphasis on how important this game is."

Even if the players won't be focusing on something that happened four years ago, it's bound to still be in the minds of the fans in attendance. That alone should provide energy.

"I think a lot of people are expecting that [extra emotion]," said Julien. "I think we expect a lot of emotion out of our team for the right reasons. I think right now, with the position we’re in, they’re in that same position as well. We’re all fighting for a playoff spot, so I think there’s lots of room for emotion. I don’t think there’s room for emotion of the past."

The Bruins enter Friday night's game eighth in the East and still holding the second Wild Card spot wit 63 points. With the Florida Panthers losing to Minnesota on Thursday night, the Bruins are still four points ahead of their divisional foe that has one game in hand.

Meanwhile, the Canucks' matching point total of 63 points has them ranked sixth in the West and third in the Pacific Division. The Calgary Flames also have 63 points, though they're a spot back, and Winnipeg sits three points above Vancouver with 66.

"I think that's the main focus on both sides," said Lucic, of the need for points trumping any distractions surrounding the rivalry between the teams. "I think that revenge thing is kind of out the window as far as the FInal goes and both teams are just focused on getting two points here and staying in that playoff race."

The Black and Gold are also trying to redeem their play, having lost three of their past four games, including two straight at home to Montreal and Dallas before hitting the road.

"For us, it's really important - we want to get our game back, because we lost our last two games and first game of a five-game road trip," said Lucic. "We just want to make sure that we're playing at our best to give ourselves the win."

Starting Road Trip Off Right

The Bruins are staying focused on just Vancouver at this point, but they have a long road trip ahead against Western Conference opponents, and need to get it started on the right note. Calgary, Edmonton, St. Louis and Chicago all await, and only the Oilers are out of the playoff picture.

"It's obviously pretty tough teams that we're going to be playing and it will be nice to start ahead and go get the first win, instead of trying to reach .500," said Dougie Hamilton.

The last time the Bruins traveled West, for their California and Arizona swing in early December, they had to chase points all trip after dropping their first three games.

"We've just got to get back to our game and execute better and work hard and get some goals," Hamilton simply stated. "We just need some energy and we need some fun, and I think we'll be OK."

"We need to be a better team, number one," said Julien. "We need this road trip to be a successful one in order for us to stay in the playoff spot. We’ve got teams breathing down our necks right now, and we’d like to be able to move up there if we could in the standings — at least in our play — and deal with it from there."

Keeping Defense Fresh

For the past two days, the Bruins' right shots on defense have been swapped around. The switch happened, for the most part, after the first period of Tuesday night's game against Dallas at TD Garden.

Kevan Miller joined Zdeno Chara, with Hamilton moving alongside Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid paired with Torey Krug.

"We moved everybody around, not just Dougie. It was about — sometimes, you’re D’s get stale a little bit, and sometimes there’s certain matchups against certain teams that are going to be better, so that’s part of the answer," said Julien. "As far as Dougie’s concerned, he’s a young player that — if you take last game, for example, I thought his first period was a tough period for him. His second and third were pretty good."

"He’s shown some flashes of greatness because I think he’s definitely a guy that down the road will probably be an anchor of our defense, but at the same time, I think there’s still room for growth defensively."

"That comes with, I say, maturity and experience, as far as being in this League. You see he’s not afraid to stand up for himself or for his teammates; those are things that you didn’t see early on. He’s getting a lot more confident, in that way. I think defensively is where he needs most of his work, and he has to be, at times, a little tougher and more consistent."

"But those are not critiques of the player, more than this is what he has to do in order to become better as a young defensemen. We also have to be — when I say, to a certain extent, patient, we also have to be willing to continue to work with him and help him improve."

Canucks Fighting Inconsistency

For the past eight games, the Canucks have alternated between wins and losses. For Friday's matchup with Boston, they're coming off an emotional 5-4 overtime win in Chicago. They're hoping to halt their inconsistency with a strong game against Boston.

"We’ve played some good hockey; we’ve played some good teams. We’ve had some good bounces going our way, and against us, so that explains it a little bit, but for us, we need 20 guys if we want to be successful," said Burrows. "We need everybody to be going. When we have that, we have a good chance."

The Bruins could say the same.

"It's not like if you play good, you're automatically guaranteed a win - you're not," said Desjardins. "Boston's got a real good team. So, but for us, we can only worry about us and we have to play hard. I think that we've got to find a way to be more consistent and hopefully tonight's the first step."

Projected Lineup vs. Vancouver Feb. 13

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - David Pastrnak

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Craig Cunningham

Zdeno Chara - Kevan Miller

Dennis Seidenberg - Dougie Hamilton

Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid

Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Niklas Svedberg

Scratches: Jordan Caron, Matt Bartkowski

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