TAMPA BAY - As Colin Miller skated off the ice and down the tunnel following his convincing takedown of Scott Wilson last Thursday night, he did so with a bit of an extra jump in his step. When Phil Kessel delivered a cross-check to the back of David Backes, the Bruins winger was not interested in brushing it off and, instead, created a tussle in front of the penalty box.
Both instances were representative of the Bruins' clear emotional and physical engagement during their comeback win over Pittsburgh, which sent them into the All-Star Break with two straight victories.
"We always play better when we play with emotion," Brad Marchand said following the team's pregame skate Tuesday morning at the Lightning's practice facility.
"It's always been a big key for us to playing well. When we do, when we're playing physical and we're playing tight, playing with emotion, we play well. We just have to realize that every game and get emotionally engaged early on and hopefully it will help."
Video: B's want to pick up where they left off before break
Boston is aiming to carry over that momentum when they take on Tampa Bay Tuesday evening in the first game following the All-Star Break.
"Hope that little break didn't take anything away from us," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "If anything, hopefully it's helped us out, as far as getting some rest. Feeling confidence is something that's important in this game, winning those last two certainly helped that part of our game.
"Coming into tonight we should be at least confident that if we play the way we have the last little our chances of winning are as good as anybody else."
With the Lightning six points behind the Bruins in the Atlantic Division standings with two games in hand, Tuesday's matchup can be crucial in setting the tone for the homestretch.
"The first thing is being engaged emotionally, being focused on our game plan, sticking to our game plan," said Torey Krug. "You play a team like that, they're dangerous, they're very deep. Any lineup that's very deep like that, you have to play a full 60 minutes because with the natural ups and downs of the game, they can pin you down when you're not ready to go."
A win tonight would give Boston a three-game winning streak for the first time since Dec. 1-5, which would also match their season high. Stringing together a significant winning streak would do wonders for the Bruins in their attempt to create some separation from the teams behind them in the standings.
"There haven't been that many runs like that this year," said Krug. "You see other teams go through those and I think you want to get on one of those runs so you can capitalize so you can gain some ground.
"The natural ups and downs of the season, you have to expect it's going to happen at some point as long as we stick to our game and continue to play."
The Bruins and Lightning are meeting for the third time this season, with Boston having won both previous matchups. Despite not having captain Steven Stamkos, who has been sidelined since November with a knee injury, the Bruins know Tampa Bay still provides them with a substantial test.
"They've gone through a stretch here where they've had some tough luck," said Julien. "At the same time, I still see a very good team on the ice, a team that you have to respect a lot. They're deep. They've got a lot of guys that can do some damaged offensively.
"In my estimation, our hands will be full tonight. They've always been tough games with this team, I don't expect it to be different tonight, there's a lot at stake for both teams. Should be a good one."
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, in speaking about the Bruins, echoed Julien's sentiments.
"Every time we play Boston it's a challenge, as long as I've been the coach here," said Cooper. "Patrice [Bergeron] and Brad, everything goes through them, they're two exceptional pros. When you've got Big Zee [Zdeno Chara] back there and the goalie playing like Tuukka [Rask]…Claude does an exceptional job. They're a hard team to play against.
"We can sit here and cry foul that we deserved a different fate, but to be honest, Boston's probably one team that should be much higher in the standings than they are."
Carlo Is Good to Go
Brandon Carlo left Thursday night's game against Pittsburgh with a lower-body injury and did not return. But the rookie defenseman practiced on Monday and participated fully in Tuesday's morning skate.
"He's good," said Julien. "He was good yesterday and he was good today, as well."
Tuukka Rask was the first goalie off the ice at morning skate, but Julien was not sure how the goalie rotation would shake out over the next couple of days. Here is the projected lineup based on the lines at pregame skate:
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano - David Krejci - David Backes
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Spooner - Riley Nash
Tim Schaller - Dominic Moore - Jimmy Hayes
Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller - Colin Miller