After the three day Christmas break, the Bruins flew out of Massachusetts early Saturday morning before holding a pregame skate at Nationwide Arena.
That morning skate will serve as the only ice time for the Bruins within the past four days, before the puck drops on Saturday night. The last time they hit the ice was on Tuesday, when they earned a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators at TD Garden to pick up consecutive wins for the first time since a three game win streak from Nov. 15-21.
"It's a little bit different than what we're used to, different from our routine and it's obviously something that we're going to have to figure out heading into this game," said Milan Lucic. "But luckily, thankfully, it wasn't too, too long of a flight."
"We were able to get in here, get a morning skate, get to work out all the kinks of not being on the ice for three days and flying in this morning, being able to get a good sweat and hopefully get feeling good about ourselves."
"At the end of the day, they had three days off as well, so shouldn't be any real excuses heading into tonight's game and right now, we've just got to make sure we get our rest and get our minds ready to play the way we need to play in order to have a strong game tonight."
The rest and family time did refresh the Bruins, though, and that should allow for a clear mind and fresh legs. Neither team wants to be the squad chasing from behind tonight. The Black and Gold need to get it going early.
"We won our last two games and the main focus is to get on a bit of a streak here and start off after this Christmas break the way that we finished," said Lucic. "That's the mindset going into tonight."
Wins haven't been easy to come by for the Bruins, but they're hoping more stability in the lineup can help breed consistency moving forward, especially offensively. Tuesday's win over Nashville marked the first time the Bruins had put up five goals since a 5-2 win over Arizona on December 6. It was only their fourth five-goal game of the season.
One of the Bruins who put up two goals in the win - Loui Eriksson - has been a bright spot offensively, putting up six goals in his past eight games.
"You're probably the one guy who didn't want to take a break, just keep playing?" a reporter quipped to Eriksson following Saturday's pregame skate.
"Ha, yeah, the way things have been going lately, sure it'd be nice to keep going," smiled Eriksson. "But at the same time, it's nice to get some rest and spend time with your family."
Outside Looking In
Both the Bruins and Blue Jackets are currently out of playoff positions in the Eastern Conference, though the Black and Gold are sitting eight points ahead of Columbus.
With 39 points, Boston is one point back of the second Wild Card spot, owned by Washington (40 points). The Maple Leafs' 43 points puts them in the first Wild Card spot. Montreal (46), Tampa Bay (46) and Detroit (45) own the top three spots in the Atlantic Division. Florida is just behind Boston with 38 points and three games in hand.
With only 35 games gone in the season, there's still plenty of time for the Bruins to pick up points, but the only way they are going to climb back up the standings right now is by getting on a streak.
"Definitely, the guys know what's going on in the standings and everything, so just - we need to win games to climb back into a playoff spot," said Eriksson. "We need to get on a winning streak here and try to get as many points as we can get."
Columbus, meanwhile, has 31 points and is nine points away from being in a playoff position. They've been on quite the point streak, though, following a rough start to the season marred with injuries.
After going through two long losing streaks in October and November, the Blue Jackets ripped through December, going 8-0-1 before facing their first regulation loss of the month against Nashville on December 22.
"We've been through a lot of the same things right? With injuries. And yet both teams are good teams in my mind and so, yeah, there is desperation to win those games," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "We know they've been pretty good as of late, and we expect a real good challenge here tonight."
Lineup Status Quo
When the Bruins hit the ice for pregame skate, the line rushes showed the same lineup as against Nashville on December 23, with the exception of Niklas Svedberg expected between the pipes.
Svedberg was in goal for the Bruins' 4-3 shootout win over the Blue Jackets the last time the two teams faced each other, on November 21 in Columbus.
Adam McQuaid traveled with the team for the first the since the Toronto-Montreal trip on Nov. 12 and 13. He's been sidelined since suffering a broken thumb on Nov. 18.
"He's just skating. Not ready," said Julien.
McQuaid hasn't been cleared and has yet to take part in a full contact practice. He was on the ice for pregame skate with the group.
"I don't know [if he'll be ready soon], I don't think so but I don't know," said Julien. "He hasn't been cleared for me, so in my mind, that doesn't make a guy real close."
McQuaid was estimated to be out for about six to eight weeks.
Sergei Bobrovsky is ill and will not be between the pipes Saturday. Curtis McElhinney will be in goal for Columbus. Scott Hartnell is expected to return Saturday night against Boston from a broken finger that caused him to miss the past five games.
Projected Lineup vs. Columbus 12/27
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Craig Cunningham
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Matt Fraser
Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton
Matt Bartkowski - Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug - Kevan Miller
Starter: Niklas Svedberg // Backup: Tuukka Rask
Scratches: Seth Griffith, Zach Trotman, Adam McQuaid (still on IR - broken thumb, 6-8 weeks)