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B's Set for Important Pre-Christmas Homestand

Boston readies for four-game stretch with tests against Islanders, Capitals on tap

by Eric Russo @erusso22 /

BOSTON - The Bruins returned home on Monday for practice after their lengthy - and challenging - 1-3-0 road trip ended with a win in Florida on Saturday night. Boston, which had full attendance for the session at Warrior Ice Arena, is hoping to carry the momentum from their skid-snapping victory into an important four-game homestand that leads into the Christmas break.

The Bruins open the home stretch against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night, before welcoming the Islanders (Thursday), Predators (Saturday), and league-leading Capitals (Monday) to TD Garden.

"The way you look at [the schedule] is you break [games] down in small portions," said Patrice Bergeron. "Right now, we have four games before the break and we're taking them as a game at a time. But four big games before having a couple days of rest. Leave everything on the line. We know what's at stake…it's big points on the table and we're ready for that."

Here's are some other notes and observations from Boston's practice at Warrior:

Bergeron Feeling Good

After a two-week absence to manage a lower-body injury, Bergeron played all four games of the road trip without any hinderance. Boston's top centerman notched two goals and an assist - and had another goal wiped away on an offside review - during the trip.

"I'm happy with how I've felt, with a back-to-back in there as well," said Bergeron. "That's always a big test and I felt good. That gave me confidence moving forward."

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy did not limit Bergeron's minutes upon his return, with the 34-year-old playing between 18:47 and 22:59 in each game.

"Part of that [time off] ended up being by design, let's just let it run its course so hopefully we don't have to manage him going forward," said Cassidy. "I can't predict the future, but we are not [limiting minutes]. He's playing his average 19 minutes which is fairly typical of him…he looks good and has had no ill effects. Hasn't had to take a day off other than scheduled days off with the whole team."

Bergeron acknowledged, however, that he may have to continue to manage the ailment throughout the season by taking off practice days, though he believes his absence earlier this month helped curb the issue.

"That's why we took longer in that two-week period, to make sure I was going to come back and feel good and not having to miss too many practices," said Bergeron, who noted that surgery was not discussed as a remedy. "That being said, we're gonna have to manage as the year goes on and it's been the issue for a few years, so that's what we're trying to work on right now."

Video: Bergeron talks with media following Monday's practice

Back on the Ice

Wingers Karson Kuhlman and Anton Blidh skated before practice on Monday with skating and skills coach Kim Brandvold as they work their way back from their respective injuries. Blidh, who underwent shoulder surgery during the preseason, also took part briefly in Boston's full team session.

Kuhlman has not played since Oct. 19 in Toronto when he suffered a hairline nondisplaced fracture of his right tibia after being struck with a Jake DeBrusk shot.

Zach Senyshyn, out since Nov. 12 with a lower-body injury, would have skated on Monday but was feeling under the weather. The winger is likely to skate on Tuesday.

"They're progressing well," said Cassidy. "Obviously I can't predict when they'll be ready, they're still on IR. Clearly not available now. But progressing well, at least, being back on the ice and mixed in with the team. Then we'll have to evaluate once they're ready for contact, do they start here or do they go to Providence to get sharp? All that stuff will be decisions we make down the road."

Another Setback

Kevan Miller was nearing a return to action last month as he rejoined the team for practice, but it appears the blue liner has suffered another setback in his recovery from a fractured kneecap. Cassidy was not quite sure of Miller's current status but revealed that the 32-year-old recently had a procedure that is expected to help with healing.

"He had a procedure done that would require a little bit of time," said Cassidy. "We were away for a week…I don't want to be disrespectful, but out of sight, out of mind a little bit. I don't have a great answer for you."

Miller has yet to play this season and suited up for just 39 games last season after a series of injuries.

Video: Cassidy gives updates following Monday's practice

Wanting Moore

Cassidy has been pleased with the play of John Moore since the defenseman's return to the lineup on Dec. 5. In five games, Moore has a goal and an assist, and has been a strong contributor to the penalty kill, while averaging just over 14 minutes of ice time.

"I think he's been good," said Cassidy. "He had a tough night in Tampa, couple of penalties - stick fouls, he's working hard trying to get position in the right spot, his stick gets tangled up. I think his effort's been good. Offensively, he's got some pucks through, scored a goal for us late. He's active.

"Doesn't seem to have any ill effects of the injury. Still playing physical. Really good on the PK, he's helped us. I've liked his game. That's why he's stayed in for the most part."

Keeping the Status Quo

After their 4-2 victory over the Panthers on Saturday, Cassidy said he is likely to go with the same lineup against the Kings on Tuesday night. That means Charlie Coyle will remain as the second-line right wing and Chris Wagner will stay put as the fourth-line center with David Backes on his right.

Cassidy did say that he does not believe Wagner is a long-term solution in the middle.

"We prefer him on the wing," said Cassidy. "It's easier to forecheck physically if you're not a centerman. When you're a centerman, you're worried about getting back into your own end, so you're not naturally gonna finish…we want him in there on the forecheck, creating havoc, finishing checks.

"I think that's easier to do as a winger. That's why we've always leaned that way. We have enough centerman. I trust him to play down low, haven't seen him as much as on the wing."

Video: Coyle recaps road trip, talks about playing on wing

Pumping Iron 

The Bruins had a special visitor on Monday afternoon as Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto joined Bruins team chef Keith Garmen to prepare lunch for the team ahead of the opening of Morimoto's restaurant Momosan Boston inside Hub Hall at The Hub on Causeway.

"I definitely went back for seconds. Obviously very cool," said Charlie McAvoy. "A special day for him to come and make lunch for us. It was very delicious…I remember it was the year I got drafted, we had a presentation and it was all pictures of what [The Hub on Causeway] was gonna look like in a couple years. To see that come to fruition it's even cooler than we could've imagined.

"So many cool spots [are opening] in there. We have incredible fans, so more stuff for them to do and when our families come to town or anything like that. It just makes it a more desirable place. Very cool. Great day today."

Video: Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto visits B's after practice

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