BOSTON - Just 28 games into the 2019-20 season, the Bruins are 15 points clear of a playoff spot. They have won eight consecutive games and are riding a 12-game point streak. And they have to yet to lose in regulation on home ice.
From the outside, there appears to be little to be concerned about. But as they get set for a matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at TD Garden, the Bruins feel anything but satisfied.
"It doesn't feel like we're in that position right now," said Torey Krug. "I don't know why that is. It's so early in the season, and we're chasing perfection. There's a high standard here, so maybe that's where it comes from. But it doesn't feel like we're that far ahead.
"We're missing a lot of guys too, so going into a game you always feel like you have to play you're A-game as a veteran guy and maybe a guy with more minutes, you take a little bit more on your shoulders. It will be exciting when we see what our full lineup looks like."
Krug added that as a result of being so far ahead in the standings - coupled with their trip to the Stanley Cup Final last June - the Bruins know they must be ready for a challenge each and every night, no matter the opponent.
"I'm not even sure if guys know [the standings] and who's checking what," said Krug. "But, yeah, it's probably a good idea to just stay in the moment and continue to move forward. We've realized that even after last season we have a target on our back no matter who we're playing. They always get excited to play us. It's always fun to come to the rink and have another test."
Here's everything else you need to know ahead of Thursday's matchup with Chicago (7 p.m. ET on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub):
Back for Moore
John Moore will make his season debut on Thursday night after a nearly six-month rehab from offseason shoulder surgery. With that long and grueling process behind him, the 29-year-old is making sure to appreciate the moment.
"When you sit and watch almost 30 games, you understand and I guess you're reminded what a privilege it is not only to play in the NHL, but to play for such a great franchise," said Moore. "You don't take any shifts for granted and I'm honored to be rejoining the group again tonight and I'm honored to get going."
After having to watch the first 28 games of the season from afar, Moore acknowledged that he will have little trouble finding jump once he hits the ice.
"I won't have to psych myself up, that's for sure," said Moore. "If anything, it's all gonna come internally. I know what to do. I've been playing in this league for a long time. At the end of the day, it's another game, but one that I'm very fired up for."
Moore will play the left side on Boston's third pair with Matt Grzelcyk shifting to the right. The duo played together for long stretches last season, experience that Moore believes will benefit him in his first game back.
"When you talk about Grizz, he's got to be in the conversation for one of the most underrated players in the league," said Moore. "He's a very, very good defenseman that makes the game easy."
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy prefers both left-shot blue liners play on their strong side, but with one of them having to shift to the right, he left it up to them to decide who would be the better fit.
"I think last year Grizz played more right, more comfortable there," said Cassidy. "I've actually discussed it with both of them. [I told them], 'I don't have a strong opinion either way. One of you has to do it, so if you can come to an agreement, it saves me stepping in.' It's gonna be Grizz stepping in, we'll see how it works out."
Video: Moore Speaks to Media Before His Return
The Blackhawks (10-12-5), who have lost three straight games, sit toward the bottom of the Western Conference, just one point ahead of the last-place Los Angeles Kings.
Patrick Kane, recently named the NHL's third star of the month for November, still leads the way up front, pacing Chicago with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 27 games. Young winger Alex DeBrincat ranks second in scoring with 19 points (5 goals, 14 assists).
"A lot of the same that we've seen in the past, a talented group up front, pretty deep. Lot of skill," said Krug. "On the back end, they move pretty well - different group on the back end than we've seen in years previous. We'll see. It will be a tough test for us defensively. We always get excited about that. It will be fun."
Video: Krug Speaks to Media Before The Bruins Play CHI
Wait, There's More
Patrice Bergeron skated again on Thursday morning and could join the group for practice on Friday. He will miss his sixth straight game tonight because of a lower-body injury.
Wingers Karson Kuhlman (right tibia fracture) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) have not resumed skating, though Cassidy said that Senyshyn is expected to get back on the ice on Friday.
Thursday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - David Backes
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
John Moore - Matt Grzelcyk
Scratches: Patrice Bergeron (lower body), Connor Clifton, and Steven Kampfer.
Video: Moore Makes Return and Bergeron Comeback Approaches