BostonBruins.com – The Bruins hit the ice this morning at Verizon Center in Washington for an optional pre-game skate before their meeting with the red-hot Capitals tonight. With a victory and a Montreal Canadiens’ loss, the B’s would clinch the Northeast Division. If the Bruins win both of their remaining games they will also clinch the division because they have two games remaining to Montreal’s one. The two teams are currently tied atop the Northeast with 61 points apiece.
April has been good to the Capitals, who are 10-1-0 on the month. The Caps have clinched the Southeast Division and the third spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins are looking forward to playing a playoff-bound team, something they say will be a good test as they try to build some momentum off the last few games.
“We’ve got to provide that again tonight,” said B’s Head Coach Claude Julien of his team’s effort in a 2-0 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday. “We know that it’s in our hands right now. It’s important that we come out here tonight and play well and hopefully come out with a win.
“Again, I’d say maybe four out of the last five games have been more like our team, even if the results haven’t always been there. We’re building consistency in our identity and how we want to play.”
“I think they’re one of the hottest teams right now,” added Daniel Paille, when talking about the Capitals. “They have pretty solid scoring between two, maybe three, lines. It’s a good test for us. It’s been a while since we’ve seen that kind of competition, in terms of being in the playoffs.
“For us, it’s a good challenge. And to see how mentally strong we are in this type of game.”
Ovechkin Streaking Too
While the Bruins will be trying to focus on their own game, they will need to keep an eye on Caps’ forward Alexander Ovechkin. Like his team, Ovechkin has been on fire over the last month and is now one of the leading candidates for the Hart Trophy as league MVP.
“He’s been playing really well,” said Johnny Boychuk of Ovechkin, who has scored four goals in his last three games and 14 in April. “He has all these goals in the last month and you have to stop him for you to succeed on the ice as well. If you take away his time and space and limit his scoring chances, chances are that you’ll come out on top.”
Tuukka Rask, who was the first goaltender off for the Bruins this morning, said he pays “extra attention” to Ovechkin when the former MVP is on the ice, Rask is coming off of a 30-save shutout against Tampa Bay on Thursday. It was his fifth shutout of the season.
Jagr, Horton Out
Jaromir Jagr (flu-like symptoms) and Nathan Horton (day-to-day) will not play tonight against Washington. David Krejci, Dennis Seidenberg, Brad Marchand, Andrew Ference, Wade Redden, and Rich Peverley did not take part in the optional morning skate.
Coach Julien indicated, however, that he will not give anyone the night off for rest purposes because of the importance of the game relative to the Northeast Division standings.
“We’re fighting for the top spot in the division,” said Julien. “So I think we still have our team, and we’ve given them some rest at times, days off, and there’s still some time to do that as well. Again, we’ll take care of tonight and see where tomorrow brings us.”
Julien said it is possible that Jagr plays tomorrow when the Bruins close out the regular season against the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden.
“[Jagr’s] going to stay home, he didn’t make the trip,” said Julien after the skate. “It’s just the flu, so he should be good maybe tomorrow. That’s what we’ve done, that’s why we’ve kept him away for a couple of days. The doctors will decide if it’s still something that’s contagious or not and we’ll play it by ear.”
Julien added that it is not 100 percent that Horton will be ready for the playoffs, but said the winger is progressing.
“I wouldn’t say 100 percent,” he said of Horton’s chances to play Game 1 of the playoffs. “To us right now, that’s the main goal, he should be ready for us. But again, those are always hard things to kind of pinpoint, depends on when we start and everything else. But he’s skating, he’s progressing, he’s doing much better, so we anticipate, and our goal is, to certainly have him back by then.”
Here is tonight’s projected lineup based on Friday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Tyler Seguin
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Rich Peverley
Carl Soderberg – Chris Kelly – Kaspars Daugavins
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara – Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference – Johnny Boychuk
Wade Redden – Adam McQuaid