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Bruins Kick Off Central Division Road Swing in Nashville with Urgency

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

NASHVILLE - When the Bruins went out West two weeks ago, there was urgency. They needed to try and find consistency in their game, and there was no better test than a string of tough games against the Western Conference's best.

Once again, they find themselves in a similar situation.

The Black and Gold have lost seven of their past nine games, and desperately need points, currently sitting just out of a playoff spot.

They kick off a three-games-in-four-nights road swing on Tuesday night in Nashville, before facing Minnesota and Winnipeg.

While the road trip against Pacific Division opponents Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose didn't produce any points for the Bruins, they at least got solid efforts in two of the three games. The Bruins need better results on this Central Division trip, which proves to be just as daunting of a challenge.

"This trip is no different. We've got to play well, but at the same time, we've got to come up with some points if we want to call it a success," Head Coach Claude Julien said following his team's pregame skate at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday morning. "It is about winning hockey games - I think we should sense the urgency of it, and it starts [against Nashville]."

The Predators are 7-3-0 in their past 10 games, and have been dominant at home with a 11-2-1 record. After failing to make the playoffs in 2013-14, and undergoing a coaching change bringing in Peter Laviolette in the offseason, Nashville has surprised with their successful start.

They just recently fell from atop the Central Division, and are only three points back of Chicago. Minnesota and Winnipeg both trail Nashville.

"This is where we're at, we're in a League of parity now and it’s starting to become a cliche now to say there's no easy games, but there is no easy games," Julien said in anticipation of the road trip. "This is what we have to do, especially in our situation - we’re in a battle here and we can’t take any games lightly."

"I know in the past, there's been teams that don’t take other teams as seriously as others and they get burned with that, but we're certainly not in that position to do that."

Laviolette echoed Julien's remarks on Tuesday morning, emphasizing both the parity of the League, and the toughness of the Central Division.

"Our division seems really tough - you know, we end up playing Chicago and playing St. Louis and all the teams are right bunched together, but then Winnipeg is big and strong and fast, and Dallas has so much skill on their team, so inside of our division we know that it's tough," said the bench boss.

"That being said, there's so many good teams and there's so many good players and the minute you don't respect that, you will lose the game. If you can keep your team dialed in on that, to realize every day, and make sure that you're ready to play every day, then you're at least going to have a chance to win a hockey game."

"You play a team like Boston, they carry that clout," Laviolette added. "They may not be exactly where they want to be in the standings, but yet we know we're in for a tough game. We know their tradition and what kind of a game that they can play."

Urgency High for Bruins

That's just it - the Bruins know what type of game they're capable of playing, and they haven't been able to show that consistently this season, for whatever reasons.

"I think it's just doing things right, consistently, shift after shift, period after period, until it becomes second nature," said Chris Kelly. "And then you kind of get on a bit of a roll, and it's a snowball effect."

"We're definitely trying to work in practices on getting where we should be, and I think as a team, we have that in us," said Loui Eriksson. "Wo we just have to do the right things out there and work hard as a team, and I think we can start winning games if we do all the right things."

It comes down to execution for the Bruins, who have the game plan in place and need to all adhere to it.

"We always have a great game plan, the coaching staff does a good job of putting that together making sure we're well prepared, and it all falls on executing," said Torey Krug. "We know what to do out there - now it's just about going out there and physically getting things accomplished."

With 30 games gone in the season, there's still time. The Bruins have rarely been able to ice a full, healthy lineup. While Zdeno Chara will play his third game back against the Predators, David Krejci remains day-to-day while waiting for his impending return to the lineup soon.

But they know they need to start finding ways to string together wins, with or without Krejci.

"It's 30 games in, but we need to start winning, that's the reality of it," Kelly stated. "Teams are moving up in the standings and we need to keep pace. We need to realize that yeah, it's 30 games in, but we need to correct the mistakes now instead of later."

Joe Morrow Back In

According to Tuesday's pregame skate, it appears that defenseman Joe Morrow will be slotting back into the lineup after two games as a healthy scratch, with Zach Trotman joining Matt Bartkowski up in the press box. Morrow also practiced on the power-play point with Krug during Monday's practice, another indication that he may be replacing Trotman in that spot.

The lineup decision between Morrow and Trotman has mostly come down to their shots. Morrow is a left-handed shot, and Trotman a righty. With Chara back, if Morrow plays, someone has to play on his off side.

In this case, it looks like Dennis Seidenberg will be tasked with that, playing the right side instead of the left next to Morrow. It's nothing new for Seidenberg, who has often played his off side with Chara to form a shutdown pairing during the playoffs.

Julien expanded on the decision-making process for his young defensemen after Tuesday's morning skate.

"There's no doubt that when it comes to making decisions between Trots and Joe, a lot of times you've got to weigh in the sides that they play and neither of those guys feels comfortable playing on their off side, so then you're looking at what we talked about, with Seidenberg," Julien said.

"So, there's a lot that goes into it. We think about it all day and make our decision at night, just before we get to the rink, we have to make a decision at that point and we make those."

With Julien exercising his "game-time decision" process for the defense, Trotman could still end up in the lineup against Nashville. Scratches Bartkowski and Krejci had to stay on the ice after pregame skate for extra work, and Trotman didn't.

Projected Lineup vs. Nashville 12/16

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

Matt Fraser - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Milan Lucic - Chris Kelly - Craig Cunningham

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Seth Griffith

Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton

Joe Morrow - Dennis Seidenberg

Torey Krug - Kevan Miller

Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Niklas Svedberg

Scratches: Matt Bartkowski, Zach Trotman, David Krejci

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