BOSTON - The Bruins and Red Wings are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Their separation in the NHL standings is as wide as it can be with Boston perched atop the league with 82 points and Detroit sitting in the basement with 32.
That 50-point separation has meant nothing, however, as evidenced by the Black & Gold's recent struggles against their Atlantic Division foe. Boston has lost both meetings this season - including a 3-1 setback last Sunday in Detroit - and dating back to last season, the Bruins have dropped five straight to the Red Wings.
As such, the Bruins are focused on flipping that script when Detroit visits TD Garden on Saturday afternoon for the teams' third of four matchups this season.
"Tomorrow's more about a focus game," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "Don't be disrespectful. Every team is good in this league and every team can beat you any night even when you do show up and play. It wasn't like the other night we were a horrible hockey team. They were one goal better; they got the empty-netter, but they were a little better on special teams.
"That's how slim the margin is. But I do believe if we play to our ability, we will come out with two points. I believe that every night no matter who we play. We have to have a little bit more of that mindset going in and not start thinking ahead."
Video: Cassidy talks to media at Warrior Ice Arena on Friday
The Bruins, winners of seven of their last eight, also have plenty of motivation to keep their foot on the pedal with Tampa Bay hot on their heels. The Lightning, looking very much like the team that captured the Presidents' Trophy last season, have won nine in a row and are just 1 point behind Boston in the Atlantic Division standings.
"I think everyone was aware that Tampa's a good team and would eventually push and here they are," said Cassidy. "We figured we'd be a good team pushing for first place, here we are pushing for first place. Tampa's right where I thought they'd be. I think it's always good to have some level of competition."
Lauzon Could Return
After serving his two-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Arizona's Derek Stepan, blue liner Jeremy Lauzon could be back in the lineup on Saturday afternoon against the Red Wings. Should he get the call, the 22-year-old - who was signed to a two-year contract extension on Friday afternoon - will not be altering his style of play.
"No, I'm a physical player," said Lauzon, who has played seven games this season. "That's why I'm here. I'm just going to continue playing my game. That's my goal and that's what I'm going to do."
Cassidy was pleased with the play of John Moore during Lauzon's absence, and with Connor Clifton nearing a return from an upper-body injury, he'll have some decisions to make on the back end.
"He'll have to earn it," Cassidy said of Clifton, who will not play on Saturday against Detroit. "It's a tough decision, but a good problem to have. I thought Johnny Moore's played well, too, since Lauzy's suspension. I've always said, if you're putting in good players, it pushes the other guys.
"When the players [that] are going in don't push the other guys, that's usually when - I'm not gonna say complacency, that's disrespectful - but I don't think you get as much competitiveness."
Lauzon, who has impressed in his short stint with the big club, is not concerned about his absence affecting his ability to get back into the lineup or his play on the ice.
"I don't think about that," said Lauzon. "I just try to concentrate on myself and I don't think sitting two games is gonna bother me. I think it showed after the [All-Star] break, I had four days off when I came back and I felt really good. No, if I'm in tomorrow I'm gonna be ready."
Video: Lauzon talks to media after Friday's practice
Halak Doing Fine
Jaroslav Halak is expected to get the start on Sunday afternoon in New York, his first since being a late scratch with an upper-body injury last weekend in Detroit. Halak has practiced in full all week without issue. Tuukka Rask will start on Saturday against the Red Wings.
"He's told me he's feeling much better," said Cassidy. "I guess until he gets back in the net we won't know for sure. But he's been through every practice, hasn't missed a drill, did a goalie practice with [goalie coach] Bob [Essensa] yesterday. He feels good. Hopefully it's a one off."
Friday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Karson Kuhlman
Anders Bjork - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Anton Blidh - Par Lindholm
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Jeremy Lauzon
John Moore - Connor Clifton