And not just because of the two points would significantly help in the standings, where the Bruins are squeezed in the playoff picture, tied with two teams for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Those points are important. Those are everything in this League.
But those wearing the Spoked-B day in and day out also need a win - in the form of a strong road victory on Friday night against the Sabres - for their pride.
“We’re in a spot where we need to win games, and we know that,” Max Talbot said following the Bruins’ pregame skate at First Niagara Center, as they prepared to close out their five-game road trip.
“We’re not playing bad hockey, but I think we can play better, and at the end of the day, it’s the results that count,” said Talbot. “So we’re going to keep on working hard and hope we get the two points tonight.”
The Bruins began their road trip with a 4-1 win in New Jersey a week ago. Losses to the Senators, Rangers and Flyers have all followed. Their 2-1 overtime loss in Ottawa could have gone either way. In New York (2-1 loss) and Philadelphia (3-2 loss), the Bruins saw third period leads slip away.
“I think it’s normal that you’re frustrated when you’ve lost three in a row and the one in overtime, so we’re playing decently, but decently — again, isn’t good enough to win hockey games,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “So you’ve got to be better and I think we have to look at those situations and make them better and hopefully turn those into some wins here.”
“But, are we frustrated? Yeah, because nobody likes to lose. But it doesn’t mean your frustration’s going to affect your game. We need to turn that into determination and turn things around here.”
“The way we have success is playing aggressively and at the same time, having layers,” said Talbot. “And trusting what we do and trusting that we all have a job to do and trust that your teammate’s going to do it and bring layers behind, so we don’t give odd-man rushes and stuff like that in the third period.”
In the past 10 games, the Bruins have picked up just two wins. Their last stretch of games has them trending in a better direction, though, despite the lack of results.
“It’s just about respecting our game plan, our system and having trust in each other,” said Julien. “So that’s the bottom line, you know. And when you trust each other, you just do your job and do it well, so right now that’s what we’re looking to do.”
The Black & Gold will head back home to Boston following Friday’s game and play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at TD Garden, ending a busy stretch of six games in nine days.
“We talked about this road trip and it hasn’t gone the way we wanted,” said Patrice Bergeron. “But then we definitely have to come out of this road trip with at least five points and it’s a big one tonight, especially because we’re on a back-to-back, playing at home right away, so it’s a big game for us.”
When the teams last met in Boston after the holiday break on Dec. 26, the Bruins let a 3-1 third period lead turn in to a 6-3 Sabres win. That can’t happen again. Their recent inability to close out third periods has to change.
“I think it’s another example where we got away from our game and they took advantage of that,” Bergeron recounted. “So they’re a great team, they’re a team that never quits.”
“We played hard in that third,” said Buffalo’s Brian Gionta. “So we have to take what we did in that third and really try to do that for 60 minutes tonight to have a chance. They have a great team, good goaltending, so we have to be on our game.”
“I think for the most part we’ve played some good hockey and it’s the third period that’s been really lacking,” Bergeron said. “We’ve got to fix that and play for a full 60 minutes.”
Pastrnak Not Likely to Play vs. Buffalo; Lehner Returning From Injury
Jonas Gustavsson is expected to start in goal for Boston, making his second appearance on the road trip after earning the 4-1 decision in New Jersey.
At the other end, netminder Robin Lehner is set to return from a high-ankle sprain suffered in the Sabres’ season opener on Oct. 8. He played three AHL games on a conditioning stint before rejoining Buffalo.
Up front for the Bruins, David Pastrnak was on the ice for pregame skate after missing Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia with an upper-body injury. He is questionable for Friday’s game, however.
“I don’t think he’ll be going again tonight,” Julien said of Pastrnak.
As such, according to pregame line rushes, Brett Connolly looks to be slotting back on Patrice Bergeron’s line, while Jimmy Hayes is expected to rejoin Frank Vatrano and Joonas Kemppainen on the third line.
Projected Lineup vs. Buffalo 1/15
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Brett Connolly
Matt Beleskey — Ryan Spooner — Loui Eriksson
Frank Vatrano — Joonas Kemppainen — Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo — Max Talbot — Landon Ferraro
Zdeno Chara — Zach Trotman
Dennis Seidenberg — Colin Miller
Torey Krug — Kevan Miller
Starting Goalie: Jonas Gustavsson // Backup: Tuukka Rask
Projected Scratches: Tyler Randell, David Pastrnak, Joe Morrow