"You play the whole season trying to establish yourself in the standings," said Boston Bruins' forward Milan Lucic
after morning skate on Tuesday when asked about the B's ability to clinch a Northeast Division crown.
|Boston Bruins right wing Nathan Horton (18) celebrates his goal with teammates Milan Lucic left, and David Krejci, right, of the Czech Republic, during the third period against the Montreal Canadiens in an NHL hockey game in Boston Thursday, March 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) |
The B's take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight in TD Garden and need only two points to establish divisional supremacy.
"What you want to do is win the divison to give yourself a chance at home ice advantage," he said. "I think we've done a pretty good job this year of moving up the standings."
One needs only to remember the club's recent four-game losing streak to see that things weren't always so rosey for the B's, who come into tonight's game at 43-23-10 and 5-3-2 in their last 10.
But at 96 points and with six games to play, Boston has won its last two contests and stands within shouting distance of second place Washington (99 points, five games to play) and first place Philadelphia (102 points, six games to play), in the Eastern Conference.
"There was a time there where we were around the eighth or ninth spot, but the boys -- we came together," said Lucic. "And, obviously, we all have the same goal here.
"It's a simple goal and we just want to do what we can to fulfill it."
It goes without saying that the B's goal is, ultimately, the Stanley Cup and the Black & Gold are uniquely positioned to challenge the rest of the league's elite teams for "The Jug" thanks in large part to the closeness of the Boston locker room and the cohesion that it adds to a very talented hockey team.
"I think so for sure," said Lucic when asked if this locker room most closely resembled the less-talented, but very tight-knit group, that took Montreal to seven games during the 2008 playoffs.
"It feels like this year we have that connection and that chemistry between the players that we did that year. You know?" said Lucic of his rookie campaign. "That year we went through a lot, obviously, losing Bergeron at the start of the year, and we were a team that wasn't supposed to make the playoffs and everyone battled through it and came together.
"That was a team where, if you look at all the years that I've been here, that we played for each other [that season] and that's what the feeling has come back to again.
"It's a good feeling to have."
Lucic was asked if a divisional title would validate the work that the Bruins have done in order to come together as a single unit.
"100-percent," said Lucic. "It all started back in Europe, or even Vermont.
"To be able to go all year -- going what we went through -- and doing it as a group, and with as a tight group as we just talked about is definitely going to be fulfilling."Notes --
Forward Shawn Thornton
(stiches) and defenseman Johnny Boychuk
(coach's decision) will not play on Tuesday night as the B's begin to cycle players into the lineup...look for right wing Michael Ryder and defenseman Steve Kampfer to return to the ice...Head Coach Claude Julien said that D-man Shane Hnidy is a possibility to play on Saturday vs. Atlanta...expected game roster: Lucic-Krejci-Horton, Marchand-Bergeron-Recchi, Peverley-Kelly-Seguin, Paille-Campbell-Ryder, Chara, Ference, Kaberle, Kampfer, McQuaid & Seidenberg...Thomas was the first goalie off the ice after the skate and is a decent bet to be in goal.