BOSTON - The Bruins' matchup on Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning serves as an opportunity for them to pick up their sixth straight win.
More importantly, it serves as a chance to clinch a playoff spot.
With a regulation win against the Bolts, the Bruins will be headed to the postseason.
"Well, this was our goal when the year started, right? Was to get in," said Interim Head Coach Bruce Cassidy. "You've got a lot of other goals, but that's the first one, you've got to get in, so here we are, and three games to go, and we have that opportunity. The guys know what's at stake."
After the Bruins' pregame skate at Warrior Ice Arena, the talk centered about the possibility of getting into the postseason, but Cassidy and the players tried to stay grounded.
"It's about playing the right way and not getting too far ahead of ourselves," said Cassidy. "We want to have a good first period, that's our focus."
"We've done a good job with that, getting out with good energy, on time, put them on their heels - and then you go from there and make the necessary adjustments if it doesn't go your way, or keep pushing and extending the lead if you happen to get it. So I think that's our sole mindset, without getting too ahead of ourselves."
Until the final buzzer sounds, and the Black & Gold have themselves two points in regulation, they'll deflect any playoffs talk.
"At the end of the night, if it goes our way, then we'll address that," said Cassidy.
While the focus in on the first period, the Bruins are no doubt using the clinching scenario as motivation.
"It is huge motivation," said Captain Zdeno Chara. "I think we all know that's what every team's goal is before the season starts, to be in the playoffs, and then anything can happen and we've seen it in the past. Same for us - for some teams, [clinching] obviously comes earlier, but [for] other teams, it might come later. Most importantly, we control it."
"There's a lot more meaning to it, when you're playing for something like the playoffs," said Chara. "Everybody wants to be part of it - everybody wants to be playing for the chance to win the ultimate trophy, so we know what's at stake."
"Right now, we just need to focus on winning the game and continuing to play our game," said Chara.
Every game during the past month has felt like a must-win for the Bruins, so they have been used to that mindset.
"We've been going through this for a while now, where every game has been important," said Torey Krug. "We've just got to make sure we can pull through this one. It's a big one for us - we clamp down, we dig in, we can use a lot of cliches, but we've just got to come tonight and do the work and get the job done."
Vatrano, Hayes, Schaller Still Out
Frank Vatrano, Jimmy Hayes, and Tim Schaller were all on the ice for pregame skate Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but none of them will be available for Tuesday night's game.
Vatrano has missed three games with an upper-body injury, while Schaller has missed 12 games with a lower-body injury. Hayes has missed one game with a lower-body injury.
Forsbacka Karlsson Joins Team
There was a new Bruin on the ice for Tuesday's pregame skate, with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson joining the group.
The 20-year-old forward recently inked his entry-level contract with Boston, which begins with the 2016-17 season, after two years at Boston University. He is currently a non-roster player, and not available to play NHL games until he receives immigration approval.
"Today he looked smooth, distributing the puck, skating, hands," said Cassidy, who hasn't seen too much of the forward's play. "I guess that would be it for now, without seeing him battle or in live action. From what I hear, he's got a good stick, good two-way player, heady player. His skills look good, good size."
Video: B's can grab playoff bid with regulation win over TB
Projected Lineup vs. Tampa Bay
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Backes
Drew Stafford - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Spooner - Sean Kuraly
Dominic Moore - Riley Nash - Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles - Kevan Miller
Starting Goaltender: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Anton Khudobin
Projected Scratches: Joe Morrow, Colin Miller, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Frank Vatrano (upper body), Tim Schaller (lower body), Jimmy Hayes (lower body)