Nine days ago, the Bruins struggled to play a full 60 minutes. They got off to good starts but couldn’t sustain that level of play for an entire game. They had trouble putting the puck in the net at full strength.
Now, after two road games in which they went 2-0 and outscored opponents 11-5, they are looking to pick up right where they left off on the road.
“It’s definitely going to be huge to try to get a win at home,” said forward Loui Eriksson following Boston’s morning skate on Wednesday. “I think you have to try to do the same with it on the road. We had two good games, we played really hard and we played really good as a team, so I think we just need to come now and do the same kind of work and try and get the win.”
The Bruins were aggressive on the road, and they were relentless. That is what Head Coach Claude Julien would like to see them continue to bring to the ice.
“That’s the biggest thing: I liked our work ethic on that road trip, [at] both ends of the ice,” Julien said. “I think our backchecking was as good as our forechecking, and our offense was just as good as our defense on the road trip.
“It’s important that there’s still room for obviously improvement, and I think we all know that. But I like the direction and the step forward that we took on the road trip. So to me, it’s important to follow that with a good home outing tonight.”
Goaltender Tuukka Rask has had some trouble stopping the puck in three attempts at home. After snagging his first win of 2015-16 against Arizona on Oct. 17, his next objective is to get another tick in the win column in front of the home fans.
“Usually, it would be the other way around,” Rask said with a smile of struggling at home rather than on the road. “But we felt like we played great hockey on the road. We battled hard, we worked extremely hard, and that’s something we need to carry on tonight. So that’s where our main focus is.”
In the recent past, the Bruins have had success against the Flyers. They have won their last six straight versus Philadelphia. But the Flyers team that will visit the Garden on Wednesday night has a different look — even if slightly — with rookie Head Coach Dave Hakstol at the helm and goalie Michal Neuvirth expected to get the start in net.
In the eyes of Chris Kelly, though, they are still similar enough, and still a threat.
“They’ve got some really offensive gifted players on that team, and they skate well, they compete,” Kelly said. “So it’s not going to be an easy game. You’ve got to be moving your feet early on and establish a good forecheck and play in all three zones against them.”
The Flyers will have their work cut out for them on Wednesday. Coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to Dallas on Tuesday night, they will get right back at it with just over 24 hours’ rest. They did, however, hold an optional skate on Wednesday morning, given this evening’s later-than-usual 8 p.m. puck drop.
“It’s a long day waiting for an 8 o’clock game,” Hakstol said. “But I think it’s part of our routine. We’re coming off some days off, we had an easy travel night last night, so it’s part of our routine.
“I’m not trying to keep guys off balance; I want them comfortable, knowing what’s coming, knowing what they have to do to prepare. Today is an optional skate. Do what you’ve got to do to be ready to play tonight. We’ve got our meetings. Those are structured. We have certain things that are absolutely structured. The morning skate today is, do what you need to do individually to be ready to play tonight at 8 o’ clock.”
Perhaps, given the back-to-back, the Flyers will already be in the zone, in the flow, ready to play. They have a fresh goaltender going, given that Steve Mason manned the pipes against Dallas.
But there’s also the chance that the Flyers could be fatigued in the second leg of a back-to-back, and if that is the case, the B’s must be ready to pounce.
“It’s always a little bit tougher when you play the day before,” Eriksson said. “They traveled yesterday, and maybe were in a little bit late last night, and we have to take advantage of it.
“So I think it’s going to be a good game. They’re playing for wins, too, and we just need to be ready and try to work hard.”
Beleskey Out; Bergeron a Question Mark
The Bruins were all present and accounted for during Wednesday’s morning skate, with two notable exceptions: forwards Matt Beleskey and Patrice Bergeron.
Following the skate, Julien announced that Beleskey will not be available against the Flyers, having sustained an undisclosed upper-body injury. Though Beleskey was present for the entirety of Tuesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena, Julien said his injury was not suffered during practice.
“As far the timeline of how long he’ll be out, [the injury] didn’t happen during practice [Tuesday]; it happened between practice and this morning,” Julien said. “I was just told it’s an upper-body injury.”
Bergeron missed the morning session for personal reasons, per Julien, and his status for Wednesday’s game remains questionable.
To compensate for the absences, Eriksson and Brad Marchand skated with Chris Kelly during the morning session, while Brett Connolly — a healthy scratch on Saturday against Arizona — filled in for Beleskey on David Krejci’s wing.
If Bergeron is not able to go against Philly, his linemates are prepared.
“You can’t fill guys’ spots; you just have to bear down and work a little bit harder and collectively try and fill their spot,” Marchand said. “But we just have to know that this team is going to be a tough opponent, and we have to play simple. They can take advantage of any minor mistake, so we’ve got to play a really good game.”
Added Eriksson, “It’s tough to miss a guy like him. We’ll see if Bergy will play tonight; we don’t know that yet. But there’s not much we can do about it, so we just need to focus on the right things and get ready for the game.
“I think we have some good players who can step up in their case, so yeah, I think we’ll be fine.”
Rinaldo Facing Former Team
For the first time in his NHL career, Zac Rinaldo is preparing to face his former team.
For four years, Rinaldo was a Flyer. Now, he’s a Bruin, and in his mind, there is no question as to where his allegiances lie once the puck drops on Wednesday night.
“No friends on the ice for me,” he said. “That’s the way I’ve always been, so that’s the way it’s going to be tonight.
“I understand the professional aspect of being traded and stuff like that, so I’m not going to have any friends out there, but off the ice, I’ve got a lot of friends over there off the ice. So they know that.”
Througout the course of his first few weeks in Black & Gold, Rinaldo has maintained a steady handle on his composure and his emotions. Neither he nor Julien expect anything to be different on Wednesday, given the opponent.
“I think Zac’s been good about fine tuning his game a little bit,” Julien said. “Our message was clear. It’s been well documented, too. I think this guy’s got some skill. He’s got some talent. He skates well, he forechecks well. You see him in practice; he can make great plays, got a good shot. But sometimes, the other part of his game would take over, so all we’ve asked him to do is balance that out. We don’t want him lose that edge that he has because it’s not a bad edge to have. He really can give your team a spark, he can give you some energy.
“So as long as he doesn’t cross the line, for me, I’m good with that. I want him to be physical; I want him to agitate whenever he can — within the rules of course — but at the same time, I want to see him play hockey. I don’t want to have a guy that just is one-dimensional, and he has a skill level to be more than one-dimensional.”
Thus far, Rinaldo has been a steady fourth-line presence for Boston. On Wednesday, however — given whether or not Bergeron is able to play — Rinaldo could get bumped up to a more prominent role on the third line alongside Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes.
It is an opportunity he welcomes, should it come into fruition.
“I have good chemistry with Spoons and really good chemistry with Jimmy,” Rinaldo said. “Spoons is a beautiful passer and he can feed the puck, so I’m just going to get open and create some space for those guys, too, so they can handle the puck, too, and get on the forecheck. Like I said, just create opportunities for them, create space for them.”
Hockey Fights Cancer Night
Wednesday night marks the Bruins’ annual Hockey Fights Cancer Night. The team will be supporting the cause in several ways, including inviting several cancer patients to the game and wearing lavender jerseys during pregame warmups. They will also wear purple decals on their helmets and use purple stick tape.
The Bruins will raffle and auction off the lavender warmup jerseys during the game, with proceeds benefitting the Boston Bruins Foundation.
Wednesday’s Projected Lineup vs. Philadelphia
Brett Connolly — David Krejci — David Pastrnak
Brad Marchand — Chris Kelly — Loui Eriksson
Jimmy Hayes— Ryan Spooner — Zac Rinaldo
Tyler Randell — Joonas Kemppainen — Max Talbot
Zdeno Chara — Kevan Miller
Torey Krug — Adam McQuaid
Tommy Cross — Colin Miller
Starting Goaltender: Tuuukka Rask // Backup: Jonas Gustavsson