BOSTON - The Bruins will be looking to keep the good times rolling on Saturday afternoon as they aim for their sixth consecutive victory when the Arizona Coyotes visit TD Garden. Boston has won all four games since its nine-day bye week, regaining the momentum it had built up over the season's first two months.
"It wasn't like at the start of the year we said, 'On February 1, [we're gonna turn it on]," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "It was kind of the way we were playing, losing leads, losing focus, playing half a game. We kind of just decided, 'Hey, we've got to pump the breaks now even though we were in a pretty good spot and get this fixed.'
"Credit to the guys, they've responded well. Hopefully we can keep this going."
Here's everything else you need to know for Saturday's matinee (3 p.n. ET on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub):
Carlo Returns Home
Brandon Carlo did not practice on Friday morning and will not play against the Coyotes as he tends to a personal matter back home in Colorado. He is expected back in the lineup on Sunday afternoon in Detroit. In his absence, John Moore will sub in alongside Torey Krug.
"We're gonna start that way. It's the easiest switch," said Cassidy. "We like the way [Matt Grzelcyk] has played with [Jeremy] Lauzon, obviously Charlie [McAvoy] and [Zdeno Chara] will stay together. It's kind of the easiest thing to do. If it's not working out, then we'll have to make some adjustments on the fly."
Video: Cassidy gives updates following Friday's practice
Clifton Joins Group
In other blue line news, Connor Clifton joined the group for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on Dec. 29 against Buffalo. The defenseman donned a maroon non-contact sweater during the session and is nearing a return to game action.
"He's been skating on his own with Kevan Miller…this was his first activity with the group in a red sweater, so tomorrow hopefully no ill effects and usually that means he progresses to full contact and then we're close," said Cassidy.
Nordstrom Back, Too
Joakim Nordstrom also skated with the full group on Friday - in a regular black practice sweater - after missing the last two games as he deals with the effects of an allergy condition.
"He's not gonna play [on Saturday], but [Saturday] morning when he shows up, we'll have a much better idea of where he's at and then that should be the last hurdle if he's all set," said Cassidy.
No Easy Call
Cassidy also indicated that it's likely Danton Heinen sits as a healthy scratch for the third straight game. With Boston cycling players in and out of the lineup of late in order to create some internal competition - a task Cassidy admitted has not been easy - the winger has been the odd-man out.
"Danton was in [my office], we went through some shifts," said Cassidy. "Danton knows those [little] things. For him, it's a little bit more being harder on pucks. That's a little more difficult. Players can take that either way. That wasn't an easy one. He's been a good soldier for us."
Toning It Down
When Charlie McAvoy tapped home Jake DeBrusk's feed for the overtime winner - and his first goal of the season - on Wednesday night in Chicago, he had quite the surprise waiting for him behind the net. As McAvoy began to celebrate, DeBrusk charged in for a hug, causing both of them to crash to the ice.
"I got a little too excited. I've got to stop jumping on guys," said DeBrusk. "I don't really know what my speed's like when I come in there. I pretty much blew him up. The guys on the bottom - I was actually trying to get Charlie up, I put my hand down to get Charlie up and guys were sticking him and stuff. It was kind of funny to see the reaction. Obviously, a close group in here."
While he wasn't quite prepared for DeBrusk's lunging tackle, McAvoy was quite pleased with the reactions of his teammates - as well as putting another two points in the bank.
"That was awesome. He hugged me and I just told him I loved him…I was just so happy and saw how happy he was and everybody," said McAvoy. "That was a heck of a play, thankful for that pass and that he didn't look me off.
"It's exciting to put that one behind now and just look forward to the next game. More importantly, our team is playing really well and we're on a good win steak. Keep that going as well."
Video: McAvoy recaps first goal from Wednesday's win
The Coyotes have lost nine of their last 11, including four of five since returning from the bye week, but still lead the Western Conference Wild Card race with 61 points. Nick Schmaltz paces Arizona with 39 points (8 goals, 31 assists), while Connor Garland leads the team with 19 goals.
Former league MVP Taylor Hall, acquired from New Jersey earlier this season, has 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists) in 21 games with the Coyotes.
With goalie Darcy Kuemper sidelined since December, Antti Raanta has taken over between the pipes and has a 10-12-3 record with a 2.86 goals against average and .915 save percentage.
Honoring The Captain
A reminder for all fans attending Saturday's matinee: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will be honored pregame with a ceremony marking his 1,500th NHL game and 1,000th game with the Black & Gold. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 3 p.m.
Friday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Karson Kuhlman
Sean Kuraly - Charlie Coyle - Anders Bjork
Anton Blidh/Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - John Moore
Matt Grzelcyk - Jeremy Lauzon
Video: DeBrusk speaks to media after practice on Friday