|Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, right, of Finland, stops the shot of Minnesota Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky (3) during a shootout in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009, in St. Paul, Minn. Boston won 2-1. (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid) |
"Well, you know we always talk about how we need to play our game and that’s going to be the case tomorrow night," said Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien post-practice on Wednesday from the B's training facility in Wilmington, Mass.
Minnesota defeated the New Jersey Devils, 2-1, on Tuesday and visit the Garden on a two-game winning streak with a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games.
The Wild may only stand 12th in the Western Conference, but as of Thursday morning, only four points separated nine teams in the west from fourth to 13th place.
"Having watched them play a few games, they’re a real hard working team and...they’re battling for a play-off spot and they’re right there in the hunt," said Julien of the Wild. "We expect them to be at their best...and playing desperate hockey."
Niklas Backstrom has been the Wild man in goal with a 13-10-3 record, with a .919 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average, but it was former Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore who got the call against the Devils on Tuesday, making 21 saves in the Wild victory over New Jersey.
"I was watching that game," said Minnesota native Blake Wheeler of the Wild/Devils match-up. "I saw a stat that where over the last ten or so games they have the second best record in the conference next to Vancouver.
"So they’ve been playing really good hockey, they’ve been putting themselves in a great position to compete for a playoff spot and then for us it’s a huge challenge, especially coming back from the road and playing at home.
"It’s going to be a kind of a grind it out kind of game, I don’t expect it to be very high scoring but two points is two points no matter how you shape it up."
Boston, 5-3-2 in their last 10, have come off a 3-0-2 five-games-in-eight-nights road trip to stand first in the Northeast Division. The B's currently owns home ice advantage in a would-be first round playoff series, but only three points separate them from their arch-rivals in Montreal.
As such, any misstep could put the Bruins on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference's eight playoff spots.
"Coming back from a road trip that challenge from playing that first game back is always a big one, so we need to respond to that," said Julien.