Just like they did heading into the Olympic hiatus, the Bruins are focusing on taking this last slate of games in stride by working hard and getting into shape – mentally and physically – as they push toward what will hopefully be another exciting postseason.
For Daniel Paille, it’s just about picking up right where he and the rest of the B’s left off, with their 8-1-2 stretch before the break.
“I think when we look at the schedule, we don’t want to look too far ahead, but break it into small segments like we did [prior to the Olympics] and focus on having a winning record,” Paille said after Saturday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena.
“You know, I think that’s what it comes down to, is that we want to have that winning record going into the final month and a half, into the playoffs.”
“It goes by quick, especially with 17 [games] in March,” added forward Brad Marchand. “You know, when you play that often, you can get on a roll, and if you can do that, you can have a really good month. We want to focus on trying to do that.”
Assistant Coach Doug Jarvis said that the extended Olympic break might prove to be beneficial for the Bruins as they tackle these final 25 games.
“I hope we can jump right back in - and I think the level of the League goes up in a lot of ways because of the break the players have had,” he said. “It’s been a chance to recuperate physically, even mentally, and they should all be ready to come back and get at it. I would expect the same from our group.”
Paille does see some key differences between this year’s team and last year’s, and he hopes those differences will set up the B’s for a lengthy postseason journey.
“Right now, we have a good lead in the division, but anything can happen and we don’t want to sit back too much,” he said. “We want to have that killer instinct every night, and I think, you know, in the past, we’ve kind of done that the other way, where we’ve taken a couple nights off, where we don’t seem to have our legs.”
“But I feel like our team this year has taken a different approach, especially having new guys on our team that haven’t been playing in the playoffs, or who are veterans, like Loui [Eriksson] and Iggy [Jarome Iginla]. For us, to have those kinds of guys here, you can see them working every night, and I think it helps the rest of us.”
Another tough practice on Saturday filled with battling and conditioning drills proved that the Bruins are ready and willing to get right back to work.
“I think the main thing is that everybody comes back with the same attitude,” Marchand said. “Before the break, I think everyone knew what they had to do. Everyone was willing to work hard and play the system. You know, we worked hard in practice, and it translated over to the games, and if we can continue to do that, then hopefully we can play the same way.”
Keeping An Eye on the Olympians
Bruins Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson won’t face off for gold until Sunday, but in the meantime, the B’s were able to watch from Ristuccia Arena as teammate Tuukka Rask and the Finns beat the U.S. 5-0 in Saturday’s bronze medal game.
Rask wasn’t able to play in Friday’s semifinal matchup due to illness, but he was back in net on Saturday, making 27 stops in the shutout.
Rask’s dominance in Sochi has come as no surprise to his teammates back home.
“You know Tuukks is going to bring that,” Marchand said. “He’s such a good goalie. He’s obviously one of the top in the world, and he’s showing that over there right now."
"But," Marchand added with a smile. “We expect that every game, too, when he gets back.”
Coach Jarvis was also happy to see Rask’s Finland earn the bronze, even if it came at the expense of the Americans.
“As you can see, they are a tenacious-type team,” he said. “They seem to all skate well and [are] very good positionally, so they certainly gave everybody they played a competitive game.”
Marchand has been equally impressed with the performance of linemate Bergeron, who will hit the ice at 7:00 a.m. ET on Sunday as Canada takes on Sweden.
“He’s been playing great all year,” Marchand said. “I think you can always expect that from Bergy.”
Adam McQuaid Feeling Good; Reilly Smith Returns to Practice
At the conclusion of Saturday’s practice, defenseman Adam McQuaid – who missed a chunk of time prior to the Olympic break with his leg injury - offered some updates on his condition.
McQuaid said that while no date has been set for his return to game action, the goal was to have him skating by the time the Olympic break ended, and that has been accomplished.
“We’re taking the right steps, and things are going as planned right now,” he said.
McQuaid added that he feels like his progress has been good, and right now, it’s just about getting back into game shape.
“I mean, I feel good,” he said. “You know my wind and stuff feels good. It’s just kind of getting used to being in situations, and even just kind of getting your hands back. You know, it’s a quick game, and getting used to tempo and making plays at high speed. So it’s more about just shaking the rust.”
“I think he’s still working his way back in,” Jarvis said of McQuaid. “My understanding is he’ll skate [Sunday] on his own, and we will continue to work with him. I see it being, from what I understand, a day-to-day scenario as we move along. We’ll see how he keeps improving.”
Forward Reilly Smith, who missed Friday’s practice due to illness, returned on Saturday.
In total, there were 10 forwards and six defensemen on the ice for Saturday’s practice. Forwards Matt Lindblad and Justin Florek were sent back to Providence after practicing with the team at Ristuccia Arena on Friday.
Saturday’s Practice Lineup
White Jerseys: Milan Lucic - Chris Kelly - Jarome Iginla
Gold: Brad Marchand – Carl Soderberg – Reilly Smith
Merlot: Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton, Jordan Caron
Defense: Johnny Boychuk, Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski, Kevan Miller
Goalie: Chad Johnson