BostonBruins.com - After enjoying a five-day bye week, the Bruins find themselves back in action on Sunday night against the San Jose Sharks. The B's currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division, but are in desperate need of points to cement their playoff position.
Before their reprieve, the Bruins won three straight home contests. They now seek to bring that momentum to the West Coast on a four-game trek across California and Texas.
Sunday night's matchup against the Sharks will be the second of two meetings between the clubs this season. The Bruins beat the Sharks 6-3 back on February 9 at TD Garden in Bruce Cassidy's first game as interim head coach.
Puck drop is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN and 98.5 The Sports Hub
Here is what you need to know:
What to Watch For
The Bruins (29-23-6, 64 points) hit the ice together on Saturday in San Jose for the first time since their 4-0 drubbing of the Montreal Canadiens last Sunday. Many players and coaches took the time as an opportunity to refresh and recharge their batteries headed into the final 24-game stretch.
"[The break] gave us a chance to relax a little bit, enjoy ourselves, and spend more time with our familes," said Zdeno Chara. "Everybody chose to spend it in the way we wanted."
"The break was awesome," said Brandon Carlo. "I got to go home and spend some time with the family. Most of my family is in Colorado, so my brothers and sisters and everyone came down for a couple days. I got to spend a little time with them, so it was cool."
Though the break was welcomed by a Bruins team who has lead the NHL in games played for much of the season, they'll need a complete, 60-minute effort to reverse an NHL trend that has seen teams go 3-10-1 in their first game following their mandated five-day bye week.
Chara noted the importance of getting back into game shape during practice on Saturday in order to combat any sluggishness against San Jose Sunday night.
"We came back today and it was a high tempo, high pace, high energy practice," said Chara. "We had a lot of drills involved, all five guys skating and handling the puck. Just reacting and getting ready for tomorrow."
Cassidy would probably have preferred to have kept playing hockey after he lead the Bruins to three victories in his first three games at the helm.
Given the nature of the time away from the rink, Cassidy had his team flying during practice, playing some three-on-three hockey to get them skating up and down and conditioning them back into game shape.
Cassidy admitted a high intensity practice could be the best way to bring his team back to the rink.
"Sometimes, you wonder with these practices when you've got one before a game - should we just go out there and just scrimmage and have fun? And let the guys get back to playing hockey?" said Cassidy.
"Generally, you're going to be rusty. It's usually your hands. So, puck management is going to be key."
The B's will look to rediscover that puck management that helped them limit opponents to just six goals over the course of their current three-game winning streak.
Opposing View: San Jose Sharks
The Sharks (35-18-6, 76 points) currently have a four-point lead over Edmonton in the Pacific Division, all but assured of yet another playoff appearance. Despite their success through their first 59 games, the Sharks are looking to finish strong and lock up the best playoff position possible.
Brent Burns, both the scoring leader of the Sharks, has put together one of the best seasons ever for a blueliner. He currently sits in third place in the NHL points race with 63 points (27 goals and 36 assists). Only Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid have more points this season.
Burns' work on the backend has taken some weight off of the San Jose forwards, who can still produce at an extremely high clip. Joe Thornton will be on milestone watch on Sunday, currently sitting on 998 career assists, two shy of 1,000.
In the Bruins' first meeting with the Sharks, goaltender Martin Jones was pulled after the first period, where he gave up three goals. Jones will likely get the start in net again on Sunday, looking to bounce back against the B's. He currently holds a 28-15-5 record with a 2.35 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
Peter DeBoer is in his second season behind the Sharks bench, a year removed from having led the Sharks to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
San Jose is 14th in the league in goals for (2.76 goals per game) and 3rd in the NHL in goals against (2.39 goals per game).
Wait, there's more
- The Bruins current three-game winning streak ties their longest of the season, which they have achieved on five occasions.
- Brad Marchand currently has 58 points (24 goals and 34 assists) in 58 games played, good for a tie of seventh in the NHL points race.
- Sunday's contest will be the 116th career meeting between the Bruins and the Sharks. The B's hold a 18-12-5-0 record against San Jose, outscoring them 112-99.
Video: Bruins hit the ice for practice following bye week