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Bruins Pregame Notebook

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
BostonBruins.com -- There are plenty of storylines to follow as the B's take on the Sabres tonigth in Buffalo.


Ruff Out
Ruff
This morning Sabres.nhl.com reported that Buffalo Head Coach Lindy Ruff will not be behind the bench after sustaining a rib injury. However, Boston Head Coach Claude Julien didn't necessarily buy that the second-longest tenured coach in all of hockey (and baseball, basketball, football for that matter) would miss tonight's game.

"Who knows he may pop in there, you never know," said Julien. "But I know he’s been through a pretty bad fall. You don’t like to see those things.

"It just goes to show you there’s always a risk out there."

Julien said he'd been in similar situations.

"I’ve had a few collisions with players and you know, it happens," he said. "It’s why you have to be ready all the time and when you see it you can brace yourself, but when you don’t it can be a tough fall."

NHL coaches don't wear much in the way of padding, but at the momemnt, Julien hasn't opted to wear even a helmet.

"I know the logical response would be yes," admitted Julien. "But we are stubborn in our own ways."

B's Back on Track?
With an eye toward Boston's showing last Sunday in Our Nation's Capital, Julien talked about his clubs' recent play, and how the Bruins might be able to transfer their victorious momentum from Washington, DC over time an place to this evening's contest in Western, New York.

Asked if the Sabres recent sucess could be attributed to simply working hard, Julien said, "I think so.

"I think that’s something for every team when you look at success," explained Julien. "You say, well harder on the puck means you’re winning battles, you’re playing on the puck more so there’s no doubt that’s certainly one of the keys to getting your team back on track and I think we did that in Washington.

"And obviously the same thing watching them play the last few games they’ve been a much better team and that’s why they’ve been successful in the last little while."

Avoiding Slip & Fall
Gaustad vs. Lucic
The B's come into this evening holding the second place spot in the Eastern Conference at 33-16-2 (68 points), and while the Sabres are currently second-to last with a 22-24-6 docket (50 points), the B's know that the spoked-B on their uniform still represents a target for each and every team they face.

As far as the B's stumble during the early goings of 2012, Julien confided that a slip in play is almost inevitable.

"Oh absolutely, I think when you play that well, whether you like it or not it’s impossible to maintain that level," said Julien. "You've just got to go through every team and look at where they are so far and what they went through in the schedule.

"There’s a great Chicago team that’s lost six in a row, Detroit is not winning on the road – those are all good teams. It’s what happens to everybody, I think it’s just about how do you battle through it and how you minimize the damage throughout the season.

"And I think that’s what we’re trying to do here."

But the Sabres are trying to plug the holes in their boat as well and carry a four-game point streak (3-0-1) into tonight's tilt in First Niagara Center. As such, Julien and the B's know that they'll need to continue their own hard work against the Sabres.

"Somehow, you want to build some consistency," said Julien. "Certainly in our case, you don’t want to be playing.500 hockey because you’re a better team than that. But you also have to respect that every team right now is battling to either stay in the playoffs, or for a playoff spot and at this stage in the season.

"Right now is when the teams that are out still have a little bit of hope are going to push as hard as they can till the team pulls the plug, and says, ‘Okay we’re either turning the switch off and move some players, or we’re going for it.’ So we expect every team from here on in until the trade deadline at least to be extremely hard to play against.

"And even after that there’s going to be teams looking to be spoilers, guys fighting for jobs the following year and that’s for teams that are out of the playoffs. And the rest will be about battling for positions. I don’t believe in an easy game from here on," he said.

Merlot Status Quo
Thornton #22 of the Boston Bruins is congratulated by teammates, including linemate Campbell #11 on the bench after he scored in a penalty shot earlier this season.
Although the B's forward lines have seen quite a few different looks this season, one unit -- left wing Daniel Paille, center Gregory Campbell and right wing Shawn Thornton -- has seen little turnover.

And the B's energy unit, known as much for their traditional maroon colored practice sweaters as for their tenacious play, continue to be a capable trio for Coach Julien's club.

"Well as far as them being together, I think you can still move those guys around in a pinch...if somebody got injured," said the B's bench boss. "You’ve seen Dan Paille move up with his speed, he’s capable of moving up.

"Soupy [Campbell] is a player that right now, you say he’s playing on the fourth line but on a lot of other teams you’d probably play him a lot higher. So that’s the kind of depth I think we have as far as the guys we have here and being able to move them up. But our line's been a good fourth line for us and whenever they haven’t, they’ve been together for so long they know exactly what the issue is."

Recently, the unit has provided more than their usual jam.

Campbell has 2-1-3 totals over his last eight games, including his first career "Gordie Howe hat trick" (goal, assist and a fight) on January 19 versus New Jersey. Paille has 1-2-3 totals in his last nine and has already surpassed last year's goal total with an 8-5-13 line. Meanwhile, Thornton had a two-point game  versus New Jersey and the B's are 41-12-9 in the 63 contests where No. 22 has dropped the gloves.

"This year they’ve had their share of issues early in the season where I think they were trying to do so much," said Julien. "They were worried about scoring more than they were worried about giving us the energy and the solid play they’ve given us in the past.

"And I think lately, they’ve kind of settled down and been a better line. So I think that’s what that does and you’ll see a lot of time whether it’s after we’ve been on the power play with our top players, most teams will come back with their top lines.

"They’ve been pretty good at being able to throw them out there and say, ‘Listen let’s make sure they continue to give us that energy and momentum and try to spend as much as time in the other team’s end as we can,’" he said.

Rask's Task
Asked if Tuukka Rask would get the start between the pipes tonight, Coach Julien -- who is generally tight-lipped about such things when queried in his morning availability simply said, "Yup."

So, Rask, who has lost consecutive games to Washington (5-3, Jan. 24) and Carolina (3-0, Feb. 2) will try to up his career numbers (4-3-0, 2.28 GAA and .931 SV%) against the Sabres in his 10th career appearance against Buffalo.

At 11-6-2, Rask near the top of the NHL with his 1.88 GAA (3rd) and .936 SV% (3rd).
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