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Comes Down to Consistency for Bruins

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - Thirty-seven games into the 2014-15 season, but the Bruins put forth a performance that warranted all-around praise from their bench boss.

It came following a 5-2 win over Detroit on Monday night at TD Garden.

"That's the way we expect ourselves to play, and [against Detroit] was probably the closest we've come to playing to our expectations," Head Coach Claude Julien said following the team's practice on Tuesday.

Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron, both nursing day-to-day situations that caused them to miss Monday's game, were back on the ice for the skate. It has not yet been determined if either will be ready to suit up against Toronto on Wednesday night.

Whether or not the pair of forwards will be in the lineup for the next game, the Bruins showed how they are capable of playing.

"The ability to play that way is there, no matter who we have in the lineup," said Julien. "Now it's a matter of getting some consistency and seeing more of that in a game-to-game basis."

The Black and Gold are in unfamiliar territory for the past few seasons, sitting out of the playoff picture mid-season. With 41 points, they sit just two points back of the Maple Leafs (43) and a point ahead of the Florida Panthers (40) in the Atlantic Division.

"The urgency was there," defenseman Dennis Seidenebrg said of the effort against the Red Wings. "You saw we were playing physical, we were forechecking hard and that's when we play our best hockey, so the urgency has to be there every game, and if we do that, we'll be fine."

"It's just a matter of us, again, playing with consistency and that hasn't been there."

Consistency - and the lack thereof - has been a constant refrain from the Bruins this season.

"I think it's just the mental mindset," said Seidenberg. "I think you saw [against Detroit], when we put our minds into it - we didn't just learn how to play solid hockey. It was us having a picture in our minds of how we want to play and putting it on the ice and that's what kept us the past few months from showing it every night. And hopefully that's a start to get it going."

The Bruins have had pockets of strong play this season, but haven't been able to push forward with the same work ethic, from shift to shift, period to period, game in and game out.

Why did it take until Game No. 37 to find a dominant win like on Monday night?

"I wish I knew," said Seidenberg. "But again, it comes down to being mentally prepared and doing the things that are put in front of our eyes every game, and just execute the game plan."

"We just have to hold each other accountable," said Brad Marchand. "That's where we've kind of been soft this year, is allowing each other to be soft and not bring our effort there every night."

"I think if we do that, and we all pull our load, then we should be able to bring it every night."

Those in the Spoked-B have spoken about accountability this season, and 'turning the corner.' They have suffered blowout losses, and been forced to 'look in the mirror.'

Wednesday night against the Leafs presents another opportunity to put any words into action.

"We haven't seen it much this year," Julien said. "But in my mind, that's the expectations that we have of our group - we need to play hard and we've seen this team do this night in, night out in the past and we've got to recapture that."

"You're always hoping that what's happened up to date's been a real big bump in the road and that we can recapture a game like we did [against Detroit], and only time will tell."

"You know, we can talk about it all we want. It's time we start showing it, and we showed it [Monday] and we've got to show it again [on Wednesday]."

"It's a first step, but there's many after it," said Reilly Smith. "I think that's something that we've got to really hone in on, is that one game is not really going to change anything."

"You've got to string a few together and we've got to get that kind of work ethic and mindset going into every game from now on, because we've got to start stringing some wins together just to get back in the playoff picture."

"Spatial Awareness"

With Bergeron sidelined for Monday night's game, David Krejci centered Marchand and Smith.

"Dave is very good at slowing down the play and making plays that a lot of guys don't normally see," Marchand said of his new centerman for the night, while also making sure to note his usual center's skill set.

"Obviously Krech and Bergy play a little different style," said Smith, who had never played with Krejci prior to the game. "It's amazing how much skill and spatial awareness that Krech has. He's able to turn pucks back and find space, so it was fun, he definitely creates a lot of plays."

Smith isn't focusing on who his center will be moving forward, though.

"It's out of my hands and it's definitely the least of my worries," he said. "They're both great centerman and if you can play with either of them, it's a treat for sure."

Cunningham Brings It

Craig Cunningham has now played 12 games with the big club this season. His first stint lasted for the first three games of the season and his second saw him fly to California as the 13th forward, but his third has seen him play nine straight games in the Spoked-B.

While most of his latest stint has been spent with Milan Lucic and Krejci, Monday's game saw him playing with Seth Griffith and Matt Lindblad. No matter what his role is, Cunningham has shown the same work ethic.

"Well, there's certain players that just kind of go out there and give it, give the same night in and night out and those are the guys that are easy to assess," said Julien. "Some other guys may not, but when they're on, they're dynamic and you know, sometimes you've got to live with those situations."

"But with him, he's one of those players, the effort's going to be there. I think he's a smart player, he reads the play well, he's an energy guy, so I think his last stint here since he's been here, he's been a lot more confident and assertive and doing the things that I think he's been doing in Providence since the start of the year."

Caron Grinding Away

Jordan Caron didn't start the 2014-15 season the way he would have liked to, after spending last season in Boston suiting up in 35 NHL games (along with another seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs). He faced a summer of possibly being traded away from Boston, and then didn't make the big club out of training camp.

But he plugged away in the AHL, playing on the P-Bruins top line (mostly with David Pastrnak and Alex Khokhlachev). He has nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points through 23 games.

With Lucic and Bergeron sidelined, and Matt Fraser placed on waivers Sunday (and eventually claimed by Edmonton), Caron got the call.

"It was tough. I'd say like a slap in the face maybe, just going back down there again after being here all last year and having to start all over again," Caron said Tuesday. "But I think I took the right approach. I went down there, I worked really hard and I'm just going to keep grinding."

A reporter asked Caron how he has stayed positive.

"Well, maybe I just act like it, I don't know," he responded with a smile, bringing out laughter from the reporters gathered. "It's not easy, I'm not going to lie, it's not easy to stay positive. There's ups and downs. But I think this year is probably the best motivation I've had, staying positive and taking it day by day, and just staying focused on playing hockey, nothing else. And I think this year has been pretty good for me so far taking that approach and I think it's shown on the ice so far."

"I think if there's something you can't accuse Jordan of, it's been his attitude and his approach to the game," said Julien.

Caron played in a third line role with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell on Monday night.

"He's very trustworthy," Julien said. "He works hard, not too often he makes a flagrant mistake so, again, his confidence and his experience I think really helped in being able to put him in that position."

No Pregame Skate Before Facing Leafs

The next time the Bruins hit the ice will be on Wednesday night at TD Garden for pregame warmups before facing the Leafs.

With the Boston Celtics playing a matinee game for the New Year's Eve double-header, the B's won't hold a morning skate.

Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. ET (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub). Live updates and lineup information will be tweeted out via @NHLBruins.

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